Thursday, May 19, 2011




Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard -- whether it's a big news organization or a lone blogger. In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.
Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.



"I saw a lot of dead bodies, burned dead bodies." Yahya Barzanji (AP) quotes eye witness Adnan Karim stating. Asso Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) quote police officer Fadl Ahmed stating, "I saw one of my officers. I had said good morning to him by the lot and when I came back, he was dead." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Kirkuk was slammed with bombings today which resulted in at least 27 deaths with sixty-nine more left injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy News) breaks it down, "Two coordinated explosions targeted the police headquarters in Kirkuk, 140 miles north of Baghdad, killing 25 people and wounding at least 65, security officials said. A third blast struck the motorcade of the city's chief counterterrorism official, killing four security guards and seriously wounding nine others." Fang Yang (Xinhua) adds, "The attack took place in the morning rush hours when a sticky bomb attached to a car detonated at a parking lot in front of a police headquarters in central the city of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad, the source said. Afterwards, a booby-trapped car parked at the scene went off as Iraqi security forces and dozens of onlookers gathered at the site of the first blast, the source added." Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) quotes police officer Talib Jabar, "I was on my way into police headquarters and suddenly I fell to the ground, but did not feel anything because I lost consciousness. When I woke up I found myself in the hospital with doctors around me and I was bleeding everywhere."
KUNA cites Kirkuk's Health Director Seddiq Abdulrasoul for the death toll of 30 and the for "no less than 90 others injured." The BBC notes that those harmed included many police officers. Vatican Radio observes, "One of the bombs targeted the head of the city's anti-terrorism unit. He survived unharmed, but four of his body guards were killed." ITN adds, "Television video has shown the twisted, burned wreckage of several cars in the street as police officers picked through the debris." Jack Healy (New York Times) recaps, "The attackers used a now-familiar tactic, detonating a small improvised explosive device attached to a sedan in a parking lot outside the local police headquarters. After police rushed to the scene, a larger car bomb went off, killing 17 officers and 11 civilians." Tim Craig and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) provide this context, "The attack came a day after Iraqi security officials announced they had captured several local leaders with suspected ties to al Qaeda. It was one of several in Iraq Thursday, most of which appeared aimed at police officers."
The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, issued a statement condemning the Kirkuk attack and calling for "all parties concerned to work together to expedite settlement of all pending issues that will show collective determination to promote stability and security throughout Iraq."

The oil-rich region of Kirkuk is disputed with the KRG and the central 'government' out of Baghdad both insisting they have dibs on the region. Under Saddam Hussein, Kurds were expelled from the region and, since the start of the Iraq War, the KRG has made efforts to ship Kurds into the region. Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) explains, "Kirkuk is a historically Kurdish city which was excluded by Saddam Hussein from the self-governing Kurdish autonomous region, leading to the departure of many of its inhabitants. But since the fall of Saddam many Kurds have returned and are agitating for its inclusion in the autonomous [KRG] region." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) provides this walk through, "Kirkuk is quintessentially the disputed city: the Kurds see it as their internal homeland, they believe it has always belonged to them even though it is under Iraqi goernment control. The city is claimed by Arabs as well, of course, as well as Turkmen who are a substantial population there. On top of all that it is the centre of the oilfields -- it has enormous oil reserves and it has been fought over for decades." Iraq's Constitution (passed and ratified in 2005) explained how the issue would be settled.
Article 140
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Second: The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
The Iraqi Constitution can be found [PDF format warning] here at the UN webpages.
By 2007, a census and referendum would have taken place -- leaving the issue up to the inhabits of the region. But, check the calendars, it's 2011, four years after the referendum was supposed to take place and it never has. Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to have overseen it but he was either unable or unwilling to do so. He continually pushed the date back. It was most recently supposed to have taken place in December of 2010. He made that promise while seeking to continue as prime minister. In November, he became prime minister-designate. Almost immediately, he then cancelled the scheduled census.
So the tensions continue to thrive and build in Kirkuk. As a result, certain 'team-building' exercises take place. Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) observes, "Currently, US forces participate in confidence-building tripartite patrols and checkpoints with central government forces and Kurdish security foficers in Kirkuk and across northern Iraq." Asso Ahmed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) add, "Despite eight years of American-backed efforts to mediate a solution, the sides remain at loggerheads." But it was seven years, not eight. See Chris Hill blew off the issue. He did so at his Senate confirmation hearing, he did so as US Ambassador to Iraq and he did so after he was finally replaced. (Did anyone ever get shown the door as quickly as Hill?) While ambassador, he showed up on PRI and NPR radio programs insisting that the Kirkuk issue was minor (echoing his words at his confirmation hearing). Even earlier this month, in Denver, in a public 'conversation' (Hill can't debate -- big surprise) with Bruce Hoffman, Hill was still down playing the issue of Kirkuk. (This is in direct contrast to the US Ambassador to Iraq who preceeded him, Ryan Crocker, and the one who followed him, James Jeffrey. Jeffrey is the current ambassador.) Sky News states, "US officials have persistently said that the unresolved row [over Kirkuk] is one of the biggest threats to Iraq's future stability." And they're correct if you leave out Chris Hill. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) sums up, "Violence and ethnic tensions are on the rise there. In recent months, after protests over problems with electricity and other public services, the governor and the head of the provincial council resigned and were replaced by a Kurd and a Turkomen, whiich Kirkuk's Arabs considered a slight."
In other violence today, Reuters notes a Qaiyara roadside bombing claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 cleric and left two other people injured and a Baquba car bombing which claimed two lives and left ten people injured.