IT ALL CAME DOWN TO A JELLY DONUT, IF YOU BELIEVE HIM -- A GLAZED CRAWLER, IF YOU BELIEVE HER.
THE WHITE HOUSE'S PLUS-SIZE SPOKESMODEL ROBERT GIBBS ANNOUNCED SHORTLY AFTER BREAKFAST YESTERDAY THAT HE WAS LEAVING THE WHITE HOUSE AND WHILE SOME WAGS WONDERED WHETHER IT WAS FOR A BREAKFAST BURRITO RUN TO JACK-IN-THE-BOX OR FOR A DAIRY TREAT FROM THE DAIRY QUEEN, MOST KNEW ROBERT GIBBS MEANT FOR GOOD.
WHAT HAD THE TUBBY TITAN MAKE THE ANNOUNCEMENT?
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN HAD BROUGHT DONUTS.
BIDEN BROUGHT DONUTS AND AS SOON AS WHITE HOUSE SECURITY NOTIFIED GIBBS -- AS THEY ARE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO DO IN THE CASES OF ALL INCOMING FOODS THAT ARE NEITHER SLIMFAST NOR JENNY CRAIG -- GIBBS BEAT A CRAZY PATH TO THE OVAL OFFICE.
UPON ARRIVING, HE REACHED IN FOR WHAT HE SAYS WHAT A JELLY DONUT BUT WHAT SHE-HULK SAID -- AND HER STAFF STILL INSISTS -- WAS A GLAZED CRAWLER.
"DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU NEED THAT?" ASKED THE SELF-APPOINTED CZAR OF OUR STOMACHS.
TUBBY TITAN GIBBS IGNORED HER AND BEGAN TO EAT THE DONUT IN DISPUTE WHEN SHE-HULK SHOULDERED EVERYONE OUT OF THE WAY AND TACKLED GIBBS BRINGING HIM TO THE FLOOR AND SENDING THE DONUT FLYING INTO THE AIR BEFORE IT HIT THE FLOOR LANDING RIGHT UNDER THE HEEL OF TOM VILSACK.
GIBBS INSISTS IT WAS SEEING THE JELLY FLY OUT ONTO THE CARPET THAT LED HIM TO ANNOUNCE HIS RETIREMENT. MS. OBAMA AND HER STAFF INSIST THAT VILSAK FLATTENED THE CRAWLER BUT GIBBS STILL INSISTED UPON EATING IT AND ONLY IN THE SHAME AFTERWARDS DECIDED TO ANNOUNCE HIS RETIREMENT.
IN AN ATTEMPT TO CLEAR UP THE MATTER, THESE REPORTERS CONTACTED JOE BIDEN WHO THANKED US FOR "ALLOWING ME TO CLARIFY. THERE ARE A LOT OF RUMORS OUT THERE. CHIEF AMONG THEM THAT I GOT THE DONUTS FROM DUNKIN' DONUTS. I DID NOT. THEY WERE FROM HELLER'S OVER ON MOUNT PLEASANT."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Friday, we noted: "True or false, there's a feeling in DC that some of Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters can be peeled away with 'incentives' (money) provided Nouri doesn't launch another attack on them. al-Sadr's influence was seen as waning as 2007 ended and 2008 began but then Nouri attacked Basra and then Sadr section of Baghdad elevating Moqtada al-Sadr to new found heights where he appeared a leader as he issued one statement after another from outside Iraq. As always, from outside Iraq. There are no facts that demonstrated al-Sadr's supporters can be peeled away, that is a judgment call that's been made by the US government. That's DC gossip, take it for what it's worth or not." Guess who's back? Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports, "Anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr made a surprise return to Iraq on Wednesday, ending nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran." Global Post adds, "A spokesman for the cleric said Sadr would 'address the country' Wednesday night or Thursday morning." Daniel W. Smith, Ben Van Heuvelen, Ben Lando and Iraqi staff (Iraq Oil Report) explain, "The cleric is a staunch nationalist who has called for a review of all oil contracts with foreign oil companies, and has indicated special hostility toward American and British firms. On his website he recently counseled a follower not to accepts a job from a British oil services company because that country had participated in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq." The April 30th snapshot included this:
UPI reports that Moqtada al-Sadr "has demanded that 'illegal' contracts signed with foreign oil companies in 2009 be negotiated." Nizar Latif (The National Newspaper) adds, "The Sadrists, fervent nationalists although they have been heavily linked with Iran, where their leader is currently based, say the deals break Iraqi laws. The Iraqi oil ministry says the contracts will result in 'more than US $100 billion' (Dh367bn) worth of investment."
Gulf Research Center's Mustafa Alani tells Bloomberg News, "I think he felt the longer he stayed outside the country the more power he will lose and gradually have less control over his group." Which is probably the most accurate statement today. Martin Chulov (Guardian) states Nouri "views [. . . al-Sadr] as an unpredictable and potentially subversive figure." Saad Fakhrildeen and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) add, "In recent weeks, [. . .] some tension has been introduced in the relationship between Maliki and the Sadrists in government. The Sadrists have grumbled that Maliki has not delivered on expected positions. The Sadrists had demanded the post of deputy prime minister and secretary of the cabinet but were thwarted." Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Rebecca Santana (AP) bring up another effect of al-Sadr's return, "His return caused trepidation among many Iraqis, particularly Sunnis who remember vividly the sectarian killings carried out by his militia, the Mahdi Army, and believe he is a tool of Iran." northsunm32 (All Voices) quotes a supporter in Najaf stating, "He is our hero. We sacrificed for him. He said 'No' to the Americans and fought the Americans, and he is brave." By contrast, professor Firas al-Atraqchi (Huffington Post) opines, "The return of Muqtada Al-Sadr, a junior Shia cleric and head of the Mehdi Army militia, from his refuge in Iran to a prominent role in Iraqi politics is not only a sad testimony to the sham democracy in Iraq but also serves a humiliating end to America's adventure here. Unless there is a military coup by nationalists in Iraq or an about-face by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malliki, Iraqis will live in perpetual fear for the foreseeable future."
Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers, "Sadr had vowed not to return to Iraq until all US forces had left the country. Around 45,000 troops remain [. . .]" Moqtada al-Sadr left the country in part due to one of those miracle arrest warrents that always seem to be in a cabinet drawer, ready to be pulled out and waived around. In fact, Reuters notes al-Sadr "fled Iraq some time in 2006 or 2007 after an arrest warrant was issued for him". BBC News' profile (not yet updated to include news of his return to Iraq) of al-Sadr includes, "An Iraqi judge has released an arrest warrant for Moqtada Sar in connection with the death of a moderate Shi leader, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, in April 2003, just two days after the fallof Baghdad. Moqtada Sadr strongly denies any role in the murder." The warrant was issued in April of 2004. From Patrick Cockburn's book Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq:
I though of this small incident when, a few weeks later on March 28 , the U.S. viceroy and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Paul Bremer closed al-Hawza for sixty days. I suspected that the U.S. officials in the Green Zone were going to get a bigger reaction than they expected. The reason for the closure of the newspaper was that it had carreid a sermon from Muqtada praising the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York as "a miracle and blessing from God," though the letter handed to the editor said only that it had browken the law on fomenting violence. "Close the rag down," Bremer had said to aides when he read a translation of the offending issue. In his account of this disastrous year ruling Iraq, Bremer shows extreme animus toward Muqtada, descrbing him as "a rabble-rousing Shi'ite cleric" and even comparing him to Hitler. As early as June 2003 he quotes himself as thinking: "Muqtada al-Sadr has the potential of ripping this country apart. We can't let this happen." In the second half of 2033 Bremer repeatedly portrays himself as decrying the timidity of the U.S. military, the CIA, and the British, all of whom hesitated before confronting Muqtada. Their fears were understandable and, as events soon demonstrated, wholly justified. Given the escalating armed resistance by the Sunni community it did not make sense to provoke a Shia uprising at the same time.
For months Bremer hovered on the edge of ordering the arrest of Muqtada and his closest lieutenants for the murder of Sayyid Majid al-Khoei. Iraqi judge Raad Juhi had even issued an arrest warrant for Muqtada in November, saying that he had two eyewitnesses who said they had heard Muqtada give the order for al-Khoei to be killed (the pretense that there was an indpendent Iraqi judiciary operating at the time was never going to cut much ice with Iraqis). Bremer held two beliefs that were dangerously contradictory. For him, Muqtada was at one and the same time a powerful and menacing figure capable of tearing Iraq apart, and so weak that he would tamely submit to arrest, while his following would be too small to make effective protests. Iraqi ministers were struck by the degree of Bremer's hatred and how much he belittled Muqtada. They were told not to refer to the "Mehdi Army" but to call it "Muqtada's militia." Ali Allawi, the highly intelligent independent Islamist who was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, once tried to explain to Bremer how the Sadrists were the political representatives of the millions of Shia poor. Bremer furiously retorted that he "didn't care a damn about the underclass and what they [the Sadrists] represented."
John Leland and Anthony Shadid (New York Times) report, "On Wednesday, it was unclear whether any criminal charges hung over Mr. Sadr's return. Jawad Khadhum, a Sadrist member of Parliament, said that there was no warrant for the cleric's arrest" and he tells the Times, "That was just from the previous government to target the Sadrists, to take us away from the political process. We proved to everyone that we are an important part in Iraq and the political process."
Kadhim Ajrash and Vivian Salama (Bloomberg News) cites al-Sadr cleric Nazar Mohammed as stating Moqtada al-Sadr had returned to Najaf and note, "A member of al-Sadr's political movement, Qusai al-Suhail, was named first deputy parliamentary speaker in the Iraqi Cabinet last month after the cleric's bloc supported Shiite leader Nuri al-Maliki to continue as prime minister." Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reports, "Sadr, who wore the black turban of a 'sayyid,' or descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, visite the shrine of Iman Ali about 5:00 pm (1400 GMT), with a group of grey-clad bodyguards in tow." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, "The Sadr movement emerged as one of the kingmakers in Iraqi politics in March, when it won 39 parliamentary seats. The bloc's support played a major role in al-Maliki getting his second term in office." Nizar Latif and Phil Sands (The National) note, "As part of the political deal for its support, hundreds of Sadrist prisoners were freed from jail. The movement was also assured control of seven government ministries, although none of the coveted offices of oil, finance or security fell into its hands."
While many outlets note Moqtada al-Sadr's late support to Nouri this go round and a few note he also backed Nouri for prime minister in 2006, no one's talking about the referendum al-Sadr held. More than anything else, it's going to be an issue if he's back in Iraq for good (this may just be a visit -- Nassir al-Rubaie says it's permanent). March 7, 2010, Iraq held elections. Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc came out with the most votes but Nouri was determined to hold on to the prime minister post. In April, al-Sadr held his own elections to see who his bloc should vote. From the April 7th snapshot:
Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10% of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left).
When al-Sadr's out of the country, it might not be that much of an issue. But he's back and you can be sure some supporters are wondering, "Why did he tell us that we needed to vote again and that our votes would determine who the bloc supported when that's not what happened?" Nouri is who Moqtada would throw his weight behind starting in August but he wasn't even one of the two top choices among Sadr's supporters. The thing about being the 'returning hero' is that after the parades are over, questions tend to get asked.
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