Tuesday, January 25, 2011





State of the Union



The violence never ends in Iraq. Yesterday, Jane Bradley (Scotsman) reported Baghdad experience "a series of car bombs" resulting in 6 deaths and twenty-nine more people left injured. Aziz Alwan and Liz Sly (Washington Post) noted the death toll rose to 8 and that the bombs "ripped through the city and its environs over a three-hour period starting shortaly after 7 a.m., and primarily seemed to target eitehr security forces or Shiite pilgrims setting out to attend rituals associated with the Arbaeen religious holiday." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "The Arbaeen is the culmination of 40 days of mourning for Imam Hussein, a grandson of Mohammed who died in a 7th century battle in Karbala." John Leland (New York Times) observes, "Other parts of the country have recently been hit by large-scale attacks, mainly against security forces and religious pilgrims, but until Sunday Baghdad had been spared." DPA adds, "Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi said Sunday the country should brace itself for an increase in attacks ahead of an Arab League summit scheduled to be held in Baghdad in March" and they quote him stating, "We should anticipate a possible escalation of terrorist attacks as we get closer to the date of the coming Arab summit in Iraq." Peter Walker (Guardian) points out, "Despite the security, there have been a series of bomb attacks during the pilgrimage period, killing at least 159 people. Last week, a triple suicide attack along the main roads leading up to Karbala killed 56 people, mainly Shia pilgrims." Global Post adds, "On Sunday, an Al Qaeda front group in Iraq claimed responsibility for the series of suicide bombings north of Baghdad last week, in Baquba and Tikrit."
The emphasis today is on Kerbala. Reuters notes a Kerbala bombing claimed 6 lives with twelve people left injured followed by a second bombing with both blasts resulting in at least 14 dead and one-hundred and forty-one injured. AFP quotes Province Vice Chief Nusayef Jassem stating, "There were three car bomb explosions, two at 8:30 AM (05:30 GMT) and another 30 minutes later." Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) quote eye witness Mohammed Thayish stating, "Many charred bodies were there, women, children and men. It was so sad and horrible. Blood was everywhere. It's so frustrating to have car bombs every few days against Imam Hussein pilgrims. Where are the security forces? They should have better measures and intelligence to prevent such terrorist acts." BBC counts 25 dead and later John Leland (New York Times) counted 30 dead while noting, "The attacks led to a flurry of theories and recriminations. Some Iraqis speculated they were meant to undermine confidence in security before the Arab League Summit, which is scheduled to be held in Baghdad in March. Others offered conspiracy theories involving foreigners and Saddam Hussein loyalists. Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) counts "at least 18". In addition, Reuters notes two Baghdad roadside bombings resulted in 1 death and nine people being injured and a Tirkit roadside bombing injured five of Governor Ahmed al-Jubouri's bodyguards, Taha Othman was injured after being shot outside his Mosul home, 1 Imam was shot dead in Falluja and the corpses of 2 Sahwa members turned up in Riyadh.
Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports that the easily manipulated court system in Iraq has again bended to Nouri al-Maliki's will in what some are terming a "coup" as independent agencies -- such as the Independent Higher Electoral Commission, the High Commission for Human Rights and the Central Bank of Iraq -- put under the control of Parliament by the country's Constitution are being turned over to Nouri by the Supreme Court. Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) explain:

But some parties were suspicious of Maliki and the high court, remembering how the prime minister requested a ruling last year over who had the right to form the next government after an election that saw Maliki and his secular rival, Iyad Allawi, finish in a dead heat.
The court's ruling that the largest bloc in parliament could form the government after a vote effectively allowed Maliki to create a majority with the other main Shiite bloc in parliament.
Allawi's Iraqiya bloc expressed its alarm over the latest ruling in a statement Saturday.
"The decision of the federal court to connect the independent boards to the council of ministers directly instead of the parliament … is considered as a coup against democracy," the bloc said.

Wow. Imagine Nouri doing a power grab after he secured the post of prime minister. Who could have ever seen that happening? Good thing Moqtada al-Sadr is in Iraq, right? Oh wait, as noted in Friday's snapshot, Moqtada al-Sadr is back in Iran. For a visit or another two-year-plus stay no one knows. BBC News notes he was only in Iraq for two weeks (and think of all the press he got for what might have been a vacation). Moqtada al-Sadr's presence didn't make a damn bit of difference (only the ruling came down Friday, Nouri's the one who brought the case). We're dropping back to the January 10th snapshot for 11 paragraphs where we explained that, having gotten the post, Nouri didn't care about anyone else or the laws and that this was evidenced by his first term as Prime Minister:
Last night, we wrote: "He's reporting on al-Sadr's threats to leave Maliki's government should the US stay beyond 2011. Guess what, Chulov, al-Sadr left Maliki's government in 2007 for just that reason. It didn't topple then either. We'll address that and Rebecca Santana's conclusions for AP and Gulf News' opinions in a snapshot this week (hopefully tomorrow)." He was Martin Chulov. Moqtada al-Sadr has no power now in terms of the government, not if you judge by the past experience. He pulled out of the government in April 2007, remember?
In Iraq today the six cabinets filled by Moqtada al-Sadr's block are now vacant. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains: "A key Shiite Muslim bloc in Iraq's governmental pledged Sunday to quit over Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a move that would further weaken the country's leadership at a time of soaring sectarian violence." Edward Wong and Graham Bowley (New York Times) listed "protest at the refusal of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to set a timetable for American troops to withdraw from Iraq." (No link. Currently the New York Times has 'withdrawn' the story. You can find it quoted here.) AFP quotes a statement issued by the puppet of the occupation: "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed the announcement of his eminence Muqtada al-Sadr." The puppet was the only putting up a brave front, the Turkish Press quotes White House flack Dana Perino who steps away from her stand up schtick on the beleaguered US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales long enough to declare, "Doalitions in those types of parliamenty demoncracies can come and go." That funny Perino! "Democracies"! She cracks herself up. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted: "The Sadr movement controls six cabinet posts and a quarter of seats in Iraq's parliament. The pullout follows one of Iraq's bloodiest weekends in months. McClatchy newspapers is reporting nearly 300 people were killed in violenace around Iraq Saturday." [CBS and AP's count on Sunday for the Karbala bombing Saturday was 47.] Jim Muir (BBC News) offers analysis, "Nobody expects Mr Sadr's move to bring the government down. Nor did observers believe that was his intention. Rather than leave the cabinet seats empty, he himself suggested that the six abandoned portfolios be given to non-partisan independents, and some of his aides urged that competent technocrats be appointed. . . . The Sadr bloc has 32 of the 275 seats in the current parliament, and intends to continue its activities there and in the Shia coalition, despite withdrawing from government. Another member of the Shia coalition, the Fadhila party, announced early last month that it was pulling out of that alliance because of the government's poor performance and sectarian quota composition. But only if other major factions such as the main Sunni bloc and Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi List were also to walk out of the government, would it be at risk of collapse." Ross Colvin and Yara Bayoumy (Reuters) note "concerns about whether Sadr's Mehdi Army, which Washington calls the biggest threat to Iraq's security, will maintain the low profile it has so far duing a U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad."
Kawther Abdul-Ameer and Mussab al-Khairall (Reuters) reported April 17, 2007 on his withdrawal of support (the ministers from his bloc left Nouri's Cabinet) and how Nouri al-Maliki told the reporters, "The withdrawal (of the Sadrist bloc) does not mean the government is witnessing weakness." Nor did it mean the government collapsed. Iraq's Constitution is not being followed by Nouri. Did no one grasp that at all during his first term?
The only power anyone had to stop Nouri was to stop him from forming a government. He's done it. He's now going to ride through the second term. If ministers walk, so what? It's not led to a vote of confidence by Parliament and it most likely won't. Nouri never had a full Cabinet. And he still doesn't, he's starting off his second term without a full Cabinet. Rebecca Santana notes that, "Many Iraqis and U.S. officials are believed to want an American presence beyond the end of 2011, as currently planned under a U.S.-Iraqi agreement, to do such things as control Iraq's airspace and monitor the borders. But al-Sadr's remarks made clear it will be difficult for al-Maliki to renegotiate that deal." Moqtada's remarks suggest no such thing. Moqtada's ministers left (in 2007) because? The continued US presence was the reason give publicly. They walked and the government continued. If that's how Nouri behaved in his first term, why would anyone expect he would accept new impositions in his second term? How do you logically infer that?
I don't see how you do. Gulf News insists, "But Al Maliki's confidence comes from a very fragile base, and the political unity achieved so painfully around the new government could easily fall apart." How? Do we mean military coup? That's a possibility.
But if we're talking about the government falling apart because X walks out -- however many units you apply to X -- that doesn't seem likely because it's not what happened before or what's already happened. During the many months without any government -- when the UN should have imposed a temporary government -- the Minister of Electricity resigned. Nouri just made the Minister of Oil also the Minister of Electricity. There is no Constitutional power that allows him to do that. There is no "circumvent Parliament one time only" card that exists. Currently, there are 13 empty spots -- 3 of which Nouri has appointed himself (temporarily, he insists). And for those saying, "Well Moqtada has a lot of seats in this Cabinet!" He has says 7 seats in this Cabinet. And before some fool cries, "Well, see, it's one more than last time!" Uh, not really. They had 6 when there were 32 Cabinet positions (plus the Prime Minister). Now they have 7 when there are 45 Cabinet positions (plus the Prime Minister). Now that's just dealing with the 2007 walk out. That was far from the only walk out of Nouri's Cabinet. There was, for example, the great Sunni walk out of 2008. It doesn't matter who walked out, it never crippled Nouri or even made him pause.
So you can have the opinion that Moqtada al-Sadr or even Ayad Allawi hold power in the executive branch of the government today but, based on pattern, that's not a sound opinion. You may say, "In spite of pattern, I think this go round if A happens then B and C band together and . . ." But the pattern's already established and until you acknowledge the pattern, if your opinion goes against it and you can't explain why that is, your opinion's not a sound one.
At any time during the walk outs of Nouri's first term, Parliament could have toppled the government with a vote of no-confidence. They didn't. That was due to the fact that Nouri was able to offer 'rewards' to those who were loyal and he didn't have to offer rewards to many because so few MPs were ever present for votes. Now you can say, "Things will be different now, Parliament will be prepared to do a no-confidence vote." And maybe they will and maybe they won't but if you're not acknowledging that Parliament refused to do so before then your opinion's not sound.
Nouri's not a new face. How he's going to govern is no great mystery. He's just started his second term. Ayad Allawi's supporters will hate this but when Allawi (or rather Iraqiya) agreed to go forward without the security council being established, that was a huge mistake. (Allawi did protest that. He himself did not go along with that.) Once Nouri got the vote and moved from prime minister-designate to Prime Minister, he didn't need them anymore. That's why he could launch an assault on al-Sadr's supporters -- jump the gun on the US an launch an assault, as Gen David Petreaus testified to Congress repeatedly in April of 2008 -- without fears of reprisal.
There will be unexpected and surprises but the pattern's established and those sure that a pear tree is going to bear apples this year can hope all they want but, based on what we know from past experience, that's just not going to happen. Equally true, human development is A to B, A to C or A to D for most people. Few of us ever experience an A to Z change. In other words, Nouri today is basically the same Nouri he was from 2006 through 2010.
End of excerpt and, again, don't say you're surprised unless you want to admit how foolish you were to have ever believed that Nouri in term two would be vastly different than Nouri in term one.

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