Saturday, March 27, 2010





I am confident that Bob’s talent and expertise will make him a tremendous asset in our ongoing efforts to bolster security and screening measures at our airports. I can think of no one more qualified than Bob to take on this important job, and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.



The retired major general, who would have been the first African American to helm the TSA, withdrew his nomination late Friday night, saying he didn’t want to cause “distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor,” according to The Post's Spencer S. Hsu and Ed O'Keefe.

Too late.

Washington’s chattering classes will spend days chewing on the administration’s latest TSA vetting miscue, surely noting that it follows on the national-security near-disaster of the Nigerian underwear bomber, not to mention reversals of fortune over closing Guantanamo and the planned Manhattan trial of self-avowed Sept. 11 hijacker Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

What a way to spoil the president’s victory party on health care.


March 7th was the official day of voting in Iraq (early voting began days before with security forces voting on Thursday) and 95% of the results of an unofficial (not yet certified) count has been released. Today, a 100% count is supposed to be released. Muhanad Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Jim Loney and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report Nouri's 'supporters' are still insisting upon a recount today "hours before officials were due to release the final vote tallies." Katarina Kratovac (AP) reports a laughable move by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani -- he's insisting that the count not be released, he's insisting it will cause violence. I'm sorry, Jawad, weren't you just insisting Wednesday that "the elections proved the terrorists' days are numbered"? (Yes, he was.) Oh, how quickly things change in Iraq. On the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today, Diane was joined by Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London), Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).
Diane Rehm: And what about the Iraq election results? What's the latest there, Daniel?
Daniel Dombey: Well we're still waiting for the final results but it's a very interesting story because you have two men who both want to be prime minister who can't stand each other, who have very different profiles, who have both served in that office and virtually neck and neck -- neck and neck. And this is actually a very, very important contest between Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister. Maliki feels very strongly that he's the man who saved Iraq -- that he took on the security problems in Basra and Sadr City and so on. And he has strong Shia support. Allawi has reinvented himself as a more secular kind of figure and gets on much better with the Iraqi neighbors particularly Syria and Saudi Arabia and so on. There's concern some people voiced if Maliki made it it would be seen as a real blow by the Sunni Arabs who would respond accordingly and be bad for relations. On the other hand, Maliki says he has a record of success. So there's an awful lot to pay for and there's always the possibility that someone from outside as happened someone else can come from outside as happened when Maliki who was previously someone you'd never heard of. But it's a very important issue all the more so for the fact that it doesn't get the attention it deserves.
Nancy A. Youssef: I think the other thing is that there's real angst in the streets of Iraq about what happens when these elections -- when the results come out -- which are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time in Iraq tonight, which is in the middle of the morning for us in the United States. There's a real angst about how the transition to power will happen and whether it will lead to more violence given that Maliki and Jalal Talabani called for a recount, called the elections fraudulent, whether the elections will be seen as legitimate. And also because these elections really galvanized and re-empowered Moqutad al-Sadr and his bloc. Of all of the -- As we talk about the jostling between Allwai and al-Maliki, Sadr comes out pretty strong in this. He will have more seats than any other member. And that fundamentally changes the dynamic as well. So it's a very interesting time. It will be months before we have this government seated which is a dangerous place for Iraq to be in given the precarious security situation -- all while the United States plans to rpaidly drawdown it's forces from 96,000 today to about 50,000 at the end of August.

Diane Rehm: Paul Richter.
Paul Richter: The comeback of Ayad Allawi is an interesting story. He was prime minister of Iraq early in the American occupation. He left office with seemingly very little public support. A secular Shia, kind of a "strongman," and known to have past ties with the CIA. Now he's possibly back. Intresting personal story.
Nancy A. Youssef: You know the interesting thing is, from the Iraqi persepctive, Allawi is seen as an American puppet and Maliki is seen as the Iranian one. And so it's an interesting dynamic about who is going to emerge and what that means. And what Sadr really represents is the Iraqi movement, in a way. And so those are the three sorts of powers that are vying for their place in the post-America Iraq, if you will.
That was this morning. Results were announced during a lengthy presentation and Ayad Allawi's secular party, National Dialogue Front, has won the most seats in the Parliament. Michael Hastings (True/Slant) offers, "Four big questions that come to mind: Does Maliki, who is calling for a recount, hand over power? Can Allawi find the 72 seats needed to get him to the 163 seats required to form a government? How does Iran–which has close ties to the other large Shiite list–feel about Allawi? Ie, will Tehran give the okay to the Shiite list to join forces with Allawi against Maliki? Finally, how does this impact the security situation, or, how much violence will we see during the government formation process?" Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) notes that 91 of the 325 seats went to Allawi's political party with 89 going to State of Law, Nouri's slate. Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) calls it "an unexpected upset" while BBC News calls it "a surprise result" -- and it certainly is surprising to NPR and Quil Lawrence as well as anyone who depended on NPR's reporting from Iraq to enlighten them. Possibly next time there's an election, before Quil Lawrence and Steve Inskeep declare a winner, they might try waiting until some votes have been counted? Sunday March 7th was the election. Monday March 8th, while pretending to 'report,' Quil Lawrence and Steve Inskeep called the election for Nouri al-Maliki -- despite the fact that no vote tallies had been released. They would continue to make this call daily during the first week even though they were going by less than half of Iraq's provinces and those counts were less than 50% of each province. But they gas bagged and they gas bagged. They didn't report, they didn't enlighten. They were wrong. WRONG. It's not the press' job to call the election. And what Quil and Steve did was not reporting. It was gas bagging and not the sort of thing NPR needs to engage in during what is supposed to be a news report. Rod Nordland and Timothy Williams (New York Times) report that drama queen Nouri took to "national television" to proclaim, "No way we will accept these results." The United Nations' Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, Ad Melkert, hailed the elections as "an historic achievement" and called on everyone "to assume responsibility to lead Iraq to the next stage of democracy, stability and prosperity for all. Whether winning or losing, participation in the elections has been a collective victory." Again, Nouri's reponse on Iraqi TV was, "No way we will accept these results." On behalf of the US State Dept, Philip J. Crowley (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs) issued the following statement:
Today, Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) issued the provisional results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections held on March 7. We congratulate the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, candidates and coalitions, and IHEC for carrying out a successful election. In support of the election's integrity, IHEC has investigated and adjudicated a number of complaints. International observers and the more than 200,000 domestic observers expressed their confidence in the overall integrity of the election and have found that there is no evidence of widespread or serious fraud. We note the critical role played by the United Nations in supporting this historic election.
We urge all political entities to pursue any complaints or appeals through established legal mechanisms and processes. Following IHEC's release of the results, political entities may file appeals that will be heard by the Electoral Judicial Panel. When these have been resolved, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court will certify the results. Iraq will then move to seating a new Council of Representatives, choosing a President, and forming a new government.
These important steps likely will take months. We call upon all candidates and all parties to accept the results, respect the will of the Iraqi people, and work together cooperatively to form a new government in a timely manner. In this connection, it will be important for all sides to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and intimidation. It also is important that the Iraqi government continue to provide security and other essential services for its citizens during this period leading to the formation of a government.
The United States will continue to work closely with all Iraqi leaders to build a long-term, multi-dimensional relationship between our two nations.
The results still have to be certified by the country's Superme Court but, as Andrew England (Financial Times of London) points out, "The results mark a remarkable turnaround for Mr Allawi, who served as prime minister in 2004 in the wake of the US-led war to oust Saddam Hussein, and a blow to Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister." The New York Times offers a photo essay including two photos of Nouri's fan club -- one protesting today before the results were announced, the other of them protesting tonight after the results were known -- both photos by Joao Silva. Of Little Nouri's fan club, Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports, "More worryingly, his supporters have openly threatened there would be a return to sectarian violence if Mr Allawi were declared the winner." Alice Fordham (Times of London) reports Little Nouri "responded angrily to the news, which was widely seen as a damaging blow to his crediblity and leadership." And what's the real scoops in the news cycle, Fordham notes, "Sources in Nassariya and Basra told The Times that protests there were orchestrated by State of Law, which rallied supporters and instructed government employees to attend." Just like when the banned candidates from Allawi's parties were unbanned and Nouri got his thugs out in the street to use violence to intimidate in order to change the results. Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) goes over the numbers and the uncertainties:
It's far from certain that Allawi will get al-Maliki's job. State of Law and other blocs have already indicated they will contest the results and demand recounts. Even if the results announced today hold up to scrutiny, there's a chance al-Maliki will be able to pull together a coalition to form the new government and retain the Prime Ministership. Meanwhile, the main Shi'ite bloc, the National Iraqi Alliance, won 70 seats; the main Kurdish alliance got 43. A simple majority of 163 seats is needed to govern.
Allawi also took to the airwaves, as celebratory gunfire resounded through parts of east Baghdad. In a triumphant speech he said: "Iraqiya [his party] has started a dialogue with other parties already and we will not refuse anyone."
He confirmed he would be his cross-sectarian list's candidate for the prime minister's office, his second tilt at the top job, but a position that Maliki's State of Law list and the conservative Shia Islamic Iraq National Alliance had vowed to block him from taking.
Chulov also quotes Haidar Dakhle of Dora stating, "This is a big step for the future of Iraq. Allawi is the best candidate because Maliki had started to resemble a dictator." Also at the Guardian, Ranj Alaaldin counsels against counting anyone out and notes that the battle for the next prime minister may be a lengthy one. In terms of the results themselves -- which were only on seats in the new Parliament -- Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) provides the walk through, "According to the Iraqi electoral process, candidates have a three-day period to lodge complaints. After that, the Supreme Court ratifies the results." Clicking here takes you to a Wall St. Journal video (The News Hub) half of which is Coker discussing the news.
Simon Constable: Meg, I want to ask you, are the losing sides accepting the results? Because I know there's been a lot of challenges about whether the elections were fair or not.
Margaret Coker: Right. Prime Minister Maliki has already had a press conference this evening straight after the election results were announced. He said he is not going to accept the results. And he's going to challenge them through the legal process that-that goes on for the next three or four days whereby the electoral commission will hear new complaints against the process. So Nouri al-Maliki is not a happy man tonight. On the other hand, Ayad Allawi, the challenger, has called for a grand coalition, an alliance to build a stable, new government and he says he's willing to take all comers who want to join a government with him.
Simon Constable: Meg, stay with us, I want to bring in Adam Horvath. Adam, the context of this is pretty important because an alliance has to form because no one party has a majority, right? This is -- what do they call this?
Adam Horvath: A hung Parliament is a possiblity out of it. Right now you have each one of these main contenders has about a third of the seats so they need to build a coalition as Meg said. And the coalition powers in Iraq, some of them are very divided from each other. Uh, no one is a perfect partner for anyone else, you might say. So a lot of kingmaking and a lot of rangling is going to start that could last awhile.
Reuters coverage includes speaking to multiple analysts for their take on the results and we'll note IHS Global Insight's Gala Riani:
"Allawi has achieved what Maliki had hoped and aimed to do. The mission he had was to run a coalition on a non-sectarian platform and secure an election victory on that platform.
"Iraqiya (Allawi's bloc) has fared much better across the board than State of Law has, much better in the southern provinces than State of Law did in the north. It puts Allawi in a better place to secure better credibility across the county.
"What Allawi has achieved is hugely significant. It's a massive blow to Maliki, to his credibility and to the type of platform he has tried to run."
Reuters offers five facts about Allawi and five about al-Maliki. Stephen Farrell (New York Times) offers the reactions of 8 Iraqi citizens and we'll note Amal al-Jalili (a teacher in Mosul), "This election is the justice which was absent from Iraq for 36 years. It is the right of the people, and it is what brought us real, nationalist, people who defended the country and took it away from sectarianism, and those who pursue sectarianism. The best outcome is to change Prime Minister Maliki." NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams covered the results this evening:
Brian Williams: Richard, you were saying earlier in the newsroom today, people rooting for the US-side of the equation would be dancing in the streets of Baghdad at this result. What did you mean by that?
Richard Engel: This was an incredibly significant day, perhaps the most important one in the last several years in Iraq. Ayad Allawi won these elections. Now he is a Shi'ite, he's secular and he's pro-American and he's very anti-Iran. The current government in Iraq right now is a religious state that leans toward Iran. So if Ayad Allawi can hold on to this position, that he gained today, he still has to form a government and face off challenges by the current prime minister, then we could see a major change in direction in Iraq.

Brian Williams: Dancing in the street with those cement blast walls in the background, kind of a reminder that it's still a dangerous state.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Election results due by 10:00 a.m.?"
"The fallen, the wounded, the war"
"I Hate The War"
"Freudian Slip wht World's Waiting On"
"Gumbo in the Kitchen"
"Robert Mitchum"
"Terry Gross and her fart jokes"
"Excuse me?"
"book 'em friday"
"2 strengths, 1 weakness"
"Who is he working for?"
"Josh Ritter's NPR concert"
"Oscar Micheaux"
"Exeuctive order history lesson"
"Ever After"
"Not very believable"
"Alex Cockburn the Global Warming Denier"
"Laura Lying Flanders"
"Hillary and other things"
"Explanation? Excuse?"