Saturday, April 19, 2014






On the elections, Fareed Zakaria (Global Public Square, CNN) offers a list of readings, including Ned Parker's latest:

“On the surface, the speed with which Iraq’s new political order has fallen apart is a puzzle. Although bombings never stopped, there had been relative stability since the spring of 2008, when Maliki, emboldened by the successful U.S.-backed Sunni revolt against al Qaeda, known as the Awakening, set out to disband the Shiite militias endangering law and order in Basra and Baghdad,” argues Ned Parker in the New York Review of Books.
“The campaign, supported by the Americans, produced a surge of patriotism among both Shiites and Sunnis. By 2010, when the country was preparing to stage its second national elections for a four-year government, Iraq seemed poised to cast off its divisions. Maliki, running for reelection, had learned to present himself as both staunchly Shiite and a leader for all Iraqis. Resisting pressure from other Shiite religious parties and Iran, he ran his own list of candidates, including Sunni tribesmen and secular politicians…Yet Maliki and his Shiite Islamist supporters were unable to shed their deep mistrust of those they believed had fought them in the past. Rather than being integrated into the political system, several dozen leaders of the Awakening ended up dead or in jail, or forced into exile.”

Alice Fordham has a report for NPR's Morning Edition (link is text and audio) that wants to insist Nouri's trying to bring the Sahwa into the military -- while ignoring what Ned Parker's outlined above and what's taken place for the entire second term of Nouri al-Maliki until right before these elections.

She's providing a wrong impression to listeners.

She's also wrong in the following, "But fighting still rages and it's been announced that national elections planned to the end of the month will not happen in Anbar. Alice Fordham, NPR News."  She got her name right.  You can dispute the "NPR News" label -- NPR doesn't really do much news anymore, it's all feature stories. But she's wrong about an announcement regarding Anbar.

How did that make it on air?

Well, like I said, NPR really doesn't do news anymore so there's no one to fact check.

April 8th, the IHEC declared not all areas of Anbar would have polling stations.  Today Tasnim News Agency reports:

“In Anbar Province, all necessary arrangements have been made to ensure the security of the election, which is to be held on April 30,” Faleh Al-Eisawi, the head of the council of the province said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
[. . .]
He also emphasized that the police forces in cooperation with Anbar Operations Command are to implement an extensive security plan to provide the security of the elections.

Again, Alice Fordham's claim (""But fighting still rages and it's been announced that national elections planned to the end of the month will not happen in Anbar.") does not hold up.

Iraq last held parliamentary elections in March of 2010.  In those elections, Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  Though Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate, loser Nouri threw an eight month long tantrum and the White House indulged him.  They did more than that, they also worked to find a way to let the loser have a second term as prime minister.  Since he lost the vote, they went to the leaders of the political blocs and pointed out Nouri could hold out for 8 more months (Parliament wasn't able to meet during Nouri's tantrum, he brought government to a standstill) and got them to sign a contract (The Erbil Agreement) which Nouri used to grab a second term.

As Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai pointed out earlier this year in [PDF format warning] "Iraq in Crisis:"

US officials applauded the 2010 Erbil agreement, and said they were hopeful that such cooperative arrangement would provide a political breakthrough among Iraq’s leadership, and allow them to address the country’s problems. They pointed to the influence the US had in pushing for the outcome, including the adoption of an American suggestion that Allawi head a new, “National Council for Security Policy”.

And let's note  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported in real time:

Vice President Biden made numerous calls to senior Iraqi leaders over the past several months and U.S. officials directly participated in top-level negotiating sessions that lasted until just moments before the Iraqi parliament finally convened to approve a new power-sharing government Thursday, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. 

The contract didn't just have the leaders say, "Second term for Nouri!"  In exchange for that second term, the contract outlined actions Nouri would have to take.  But then he refused to honor his promises.  It's among the reasons he's so loathed today.

We've note many press whores over the years.  When there's a member of the press that tells the truth, we also try to note that.  On The Erbil Agreement, we're going to drop back to November 13, 2010 when one reporter had the guts to tell the truth.  Michael Jansen (Gulf Today) stated the obvious, "The deal making that produced last Thursday’s session of parliament is nothing to boast about." She then continued:

It is not clear why Iraqiya thought Maliki -- a sectarian Shiite whose Dawa party was a bitter enemy of the Baath -- would implement this pledge. Maliki has also failed to carry out solemn promises to recruit into the security forces or find civil service jobs for fighters of the Sunni Awakening Councils -- or Sons of Iraq movement -- who helped US and government forces curb Al Qaeda in 2007-08. Maliki has shown himself to have absolutely no intention of sharing power with Sunnis and certainly not with secular politicians like Allawi who represents the "old Iraq" where politics was non-sectarian.
In spite of Obama's declaration that an "inclusive" government formula had been found after months of wrangling, Maliki is not interested in including Sunnis, secularists, former Baathists and others who do not subscribe to the ethno-sectarian system imposed on Iraq by the previous Bush administration.

She said that days after The Erbil Agreement was signed.  She had been proven correct by the events that followed.  Credit to Michael Jansen for offering reality and perspective when few others were able or willing to.   Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports:

With the vote only days away, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s prospects for re-election look dim, and the country’s Shia parties, which together are poised to win the most seats in parliament, have started looking for a challenger to the incumbent leader.
Al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term in office, is in trouble as Iraq is teeming with problems. Many blame him for the country’s sectarian violence, political turmoil and economic deadlock and are eager to see a new prime minister in place.
For the time being, there is no frontrunner in Iraq’s elections, scheduled for 30 April, as several Shia politicians have been vying for the powerful position which also includes the key post of commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Iraq Times reports the Independent High Electoral Commission announced Thursday that they have fined 61 political bodies and candidates so far for campaign violations.  The IHEC is a ruling body but the Iraqi people are the ultimate ruling body (unless the White House steps in as it did in 2006 when it installed Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister and as it did in 2010 when it demanded he be given a second term).  And the people are defining their own issues right now.  For example, Rekar Aziz and Alexander Whitcomb (Rudaw) report that, in the Kurdistan Region, where campaign posters, leaflets and other printed materials are made is becoming an issue with voters and local businesses since much of the campaign material is coming "from Turkey, Lebanon and as far away as China" harming the KRG's local economy.

Let's stay with the Kurds for a moment, Ilnur Cevik (Daily Sabah) reports:

Iraqi Kurdish leaders feel that if the current impasse in relations with the Iraqi central government continues after the April 30 elections they will have no other option but to gradually weaken their ties with Baghdad and eventually declare a separate state. Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was in Ankara to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Wednesday night to feel the pulse of Ankara if the Kurds eventually move away from Baghdad. A source close to Barzani told Daily Sabah on Thursday that Barzani returned home late Wednesday night "satisfied."
The central government of Iraq led by Nouri el-Maliki has been at odds with the Kurds over an array of issues stemming from an oil and gas dispute. Baghdad has thus been slow in sending the KRG's share of Iraqi oil revenues and therefore pushed the Kurds into a financial bottleneck with serious delays in even the payment of civil servant salaries in the KRG.

And Nouri continues to alienate the Kurds. Adnan Jassem (Anadolu Agency) notes, "Iraq's main Shiite bloc led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will endorse a 'moderate Sunni Arab' candidate to succeed incumbent President Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, a leading bloc member has said."

On the election, All Iraq News reports:

Ahrar bloc of Sadr Trend described granting a 3rd term for the Premier, Nouri al-Maliki, as "Dreams."
MP, Hussien al-Shireifi, of Ahrar bloc stated to AIN "The majority of the political blocs object renewing a 3rd term for Maliki due to his policies that caused crises and problems for the country."

In addition, Iraq Times quotes another Sadr bloc MP, Bahaa al-Araji stating that Nouri will not receive a third term as prime minister.  In another report, the outlet quotes al-Araji stating Nouri has no achievements to speak of, not when security has deteriorated and the economy is not improved and . . .  Dar Addustour reports that both cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim went to Tehran to make clear that a third term for Nouri is unacceptable and that this follows KRG President Massoud Barzani told officials in Tehran that a third term for Nouri would cause the Kurds to secede.  As Ann noted last night, Ayad Allawi declared this week that Nouri shouldn't have a third term as prime minister.  Iraq Times reports the State Dept's Brett McGurk is advocating for a third term for Nouri and that Ahmed Chalabi is speaking with the White House about why this is not a good idea and spoke to US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Beecroft about this on Monday.

Not all Iraqis who vote will be voting in Iraq.  There are many Iraqis who have had to flee the country due to violence.  NINA reports, "A leading member of Rafidain parliamentary bloc MP, Imad Youkhana called on Iraqi communities abroad to broad participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections."  All Iraq News reports:

The member of the Parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, Imad Yokhana, called the Iraqis abroad for wide participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
He stated to AIN "The Iraqis abroad can determine the future of Iraq for the next 4 years via their participation in the elections."

Two days before the election, Iraq's security forces will take part in early voting.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) explores the military vote and we'll note this section:

It is also possible that the situation they are facing in Anbar may be turning the Iraqi military against al-Maliki. When problems first started in Anbar, al-Maliki seemed to be very popular with the military, observers say. However over recent months this has changed.

“Al-Maliki’s popularity is decreasing,” says one senior member of the military in Basra province, who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions. “Because the army is having huge difficulties in Anbar.”

According to this soldier, the Iraqi government has allegedly played down the number of military casualties it’s had in the fight against insurgents in Anbar. Videos being posted on YouTube and other social media indicate many more are being captured and killed.

“Previously regiments in the south of the country were fairly safe on their bases,” the military source says. “Then al-Maliki decided to bring them to Anbar and it’s led to many deaths. This has increased ill will towards the government.”

“The government has forced the Iraqi military into a battle it cannot win,” says Yassin al-Rubaie, a former member of the Iraqi army’s Seventh Division, which is currently deployed in Anbar. “We don’t have any experience fighting a guerrilla war on the streets and we don’t know the area at all. The militias fighting us know the area very well, they’re better coordinated than the army and they have had this kind of combat experience before,” he says.

Nouri al-Maliki continues killing civilians in Anbar.  Alsumaria reports a military shelling of a residential neighborhood in Ramadi left 3 people dead "including a child."  Iraqi Spring MC notes Nouri's three murders here. Iraqi Spring MC also notes people demonstrated in Ramadi calling on Nouri to pulls his forces out of the city and the military 'responded' by firing randomly.  Meanwhile Nouri's forces continued their bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods.  Alsumaria reports 1 civilian was killed and ten more were injured in the latest assault from Nouri's military.  Suleiman al-Qubeisi (Anadolu Agency) also reports on the Falluja assault.   NINA quotes Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad stating, "Friday sermons in Fallujah focused on demands to stop the indiscriminate shelling of the city if the government rely want to develop a solution to the crisis , the abolition of the provincial government and members of the board because of their frustrated stands as they escaped to the northern provinces or out of Iraq and stealing by some of them aid, food and funds allocated by many local and international agencies for the displaced people of Anbar moreover of exploited the stolen funds and material to serve them in the propaganda of electoral campaign."  Kitabat notes the Sheikh called out the "genocide" taking place as Nouri attacks the civilians of Falluja and Ramadi.

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