Saturday, December 31, 2011









A protest took place in Baghdad today as well and the government's actions did not speak well. It did, however, back up an observation Jack Fairweather (Financial Times of London) made today about how "the mechanics of the Iraqi state remain unchanged from the days of Saddam Hussein." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) captured the protests in a series of Tweets:
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh
demo organized by brother of Bush shoe thrower to celebrate #US withdrawal. 12 people turned up & more than 200 security forces. #Iraq

JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh
demo organized by brother of Bush shoe thrower to celebrate #US withdrawal. 12 people turned up & more than 200 security forces. #Iraq
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh
Police Gen. there said gathering was "unauthorized" &kept asking them 2 leave. Hrs later, protesters set #US flag on fire &were beaten up
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh
Protesters down to 8 ppl at the end kept asking us not leave, saying our presence stops security forces from detaining them. #Iraq
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh
Camera of 1 Iraqi channel confiscated, our cameraman prevented from filming& my cell phone almost confiscated after taking one still. #Iraq
JomanaCNN jomana karadsheh
protesters surrounded as we left, 1 telling me now 3 were detained after being beaten up. cant reach them 2 confirm, their phones off. #IRAQ

The continued crackdown on protests in Iraq. Excuse me, the continued crackdown on protests in supposedly 'free' Iraq. Nouri's goons grab cameras (Karadsheh's cell phone) and target reporters attempting to do their jobs, the Iraqis beg the reporters to stay out of fear of what happens when no witnesses are around and then the Iraqis disappear. That's Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq and the US installed him and kept him in power in 2010 even when the Iraqi people rejected him by voting Iraqiya into first place in the March 2010 elections with Nouri's State of Law trailing in second place.
Remember what followed those elections? Nouri's tantrums. And eight months of his digging his heels in -- with US backing -- and refusing to surrender the post of prime minister -- even though his term had expired and even though, per the Iraqi Constitution, Iraqiya would have first shot at building a government. Nouri refused to obey the Constitution and the US government applauded that by continuing to back him even when the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim were stating publicly that Nouri could not be the next prime minister.
Political Stalemate I ended in November of 2010 with the Erbil Agreement hammered out in Erbil between the major political blocs (and the US) whereby every one was supposed to make concessions. The Kurds would get to keep Jalal Talabani as president. They thought they would get three vice presidents. Iraqiya won the elections in March 2010 and the political bloc was headed by Ayad Allawi. Nouri wasn't stepping down and the White House was backing Nouri. For Nouri to remain prime minister, Allawi was promised he would head a new, independent council over security issues. He was also promised that the Iraqiya candidates demonized as Ba'athists and forced out of the 2010 elections by Nouri's friends would have their names cleared.

On November 11th, the new Parliament held their first real session. They voted Osama al-Nujaifi Speaker of Parliament (he was from Iraqiya and that was part of the Erbil Agreement), Jalal was named president and Nouri was named prime minister designate (but we were all informed in the following days that this was 'unofficial' -- once named prime minister-designate, you have 30 days, per the Constitution, to put together a Cabinet and get the Parliament to sign off on each member). But what of the security council? It and other promises were forgotten as Nouri refused to abide by the agreement.
Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya and former prime minister of Iraq, remembers what happened and Tweeted about it this week.
AyadAllawi Ayad Allawi
4the sake of stability,Iraqiya agreed2join the national unity government upon the Erbil power-sharing agreement reached a year ago 1/3
AyadAllawi Ayad Allawi
However,4more than a year now Mr. Maliki has refused to implement this agreement, instead concentrating greater power in his own hands. 2/3
Nobember 25th, Jalal 'officially' named Nouri prime minister-designate. Nouri had created Political Stalemate I by refusing to surrender the prime minister post. He'd done that for eight months. In that time, he should have had some ideas about a Cabinet. But Nouri's problem was he over-promised to get support. So when it was time to name a Cabinet, suddenly the Cabinet had more ministers and deputy ministers than it had previously (from 37 in 2006 to 42 in 2010). And he still couldn't keep his promises to everyone. December 21, 2010, the Constitution was tossed by the wayside and Nouri was allowed to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister because he'd assembled a kind of Cabinet. He named 31 out of 42 ministers and people pretended that was good enough. He had failed to meet the Constitutional mandate of naming a Cabinet but everyone looked the other way.

He refused to name the security posts: National Security, Interior and Defense. His defenders (including the White House) swore those posts would be named in a matter of weeks. His detractors saw the refusal as part of a pattern of power grabs on Nouri's part and stated he wouldn't fill the posts. This is the start of Political Stalemate II. And it's where Iraq remains, still in a stalemate and now in a political crisis. In the latest embarrassment for Nouri al-Maliki, Alsumaria TV reports that State of Law MP Adnan Mayahi, who serves on Parliament's Security and Defense Commission, has declared that the bulk of Iraq's security services have been infiltrated and that a great many working in prisons practice torture. After a year of refusing to name heads to the Ministery of the Interior, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Defense, you'd think stories like this would lead for widespread calls for Nouri to stop holding those posts and instead fill them. And Alsumaria TV has now reported more on this story on their English version site:
No Iraqis would be imprisoned for their opinions and thoughts but for violence and terrorism only, Armed Forces General Commander Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki assured, on December 10. There are no limits for human freedom if it doesn't oppose public interest, he added, a source told Alsumaria.
Iraqiya List headed by Iyad Allawi revealed, on December 14, that random arrests are still occuring in all Iraqi regions which contradicts human rights' basics. Our members are holding constant meetings regarding this issue, Iraqiya indicated.
Iraqi Government is not executing most of its international agreements and conventions concerning human, women, children and prisoners' rights, Representative of Secretary General of the United Nations in Iraq Walter Kalin accused in his report on June 3.
In its report issued last February, Amnesty International revealed that there are secret prisons in Iraq where detainees are being tortured for confessions used in their convictions.

Meanwhile it's been one denial after another from Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Ammar Karim (AFP) reports he is denying co-writing "How to Save Iraq From Civil War" (New York Times) with Rafie al-Issawi and Ayad Allawi but instead insists that his name was added to the byline without his knowledge. Why deny co-writing the column? Because some are saying the column was a letter to the White House asking it to intervene in Iraqi matters. Alsumaria TV reports that National Alliance MP Qasim al-Araji is among those declaring that the column is a plea to the Barack Obama administration to intervene in Iraqi affairs.

In addition, Al Mada reports al-Nujaifi is denying having made a deal with President Jalal Talabani to oust Nouri via a vote of no confidence. Al Rafidayn notes that he declared the meet-up with Talabani was to discuss a national conference to be held shortly to address issues (including the political crisis) and the need to resolve the Tareq al-Hashemi issue via the judiciary. On the first issue, Al Mada notes Talabani says the conference will be held within two weeks and, on thesecond issue, Al Mada adds that the political blocs are currently debating the proposal that al-Hashemi's case be transferred to the Kurdish judiciary.

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a member of Iraqiya, has been accused by Nouri al-Maliki of being a terrorist. If convicted of that charge, the punishment is life in prison or execution. Tareq al-Hashemi is currently in the KRG and a house guest of President Talabani. al-Hashemi is not the only member of Iraqiya that Nouri has targeted recently. He's also demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his office. Were al-Mutlaq stripped of his office, he would lose immunity and Nouri could sue him for statements Nouri did not like. (Nouri is highly litigious. Along with suing other Iraqi politicians, he likes to sue news outlets such as the Guardian.) The targeting of the two members of Iraqiya comes as rumors swirl that others will be targeted -- including supposed arrest charges for Financial Minister al-Issawi -- and after the November arrests of over 500 alleged "Ba'athists." In an introduction to a new profile on the Financial Minister, Jack Healy and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) observe:
He may also be the next leader to fall as the country's Shiite prime minister takes aim at perceived rivals and enemies, his fate a litmus test for a country in crisis.
Unlike other Sunni politicians who have drawn fire from the Shiite-led government, Mr. Essawi is known as a conciliatory figure who has built bridges with Kurds, Shiites and Westerners. If the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, takes action against him -- he has already tried to relieve Mr. Essawi of his duties -- it could open deep new divisions in Iraq's already tattered sectarian landscape and send a discouraging signal about whether a post-United States Iraq can forge a truly inclusive and representative government.
Calls for the charges against al-Hashemi to be heard by the KRG judiciary stem from the control over the Iraqi judiciary (Baghdad-based) that Nouri has as evidenced by numerous rulings. This point is made in a report by an Iraqi journalist for McClatchy Newspapers:

A politician in Maliki's own National Alliance told McClatchy yesterday that Maliki holds "complete" sway over the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court's "interpretation" of the constitution that enabled Maliki to retain his position as PM and form a government after the last elections, although Iraqiya bloc had the highest take. It was also through the Supreme Court that Maliki all but stopped the legislative powers of the parliament by its "interpreting" the constitution to say that legislation can only stem from the executive branch (cabinet and presidency) and that the parliament could only make "suggestions".

The report is called "Iraq At The Crossroads" and hopefully it will run in all McClatchy owned papers because it's an important piece. We're grabbing from it on the courts because that's what I need for this entry but the whole thing is a gripping read. McClatchy's Iraqi journalists have done top-notch work throughout the war. This report (at McClatchy's Inside Iraq) continues that tradition. And today brings the news, at Inside Iraq, in a heartfelt post, that McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau has now closed. Sahar Issa, Laith Hammoudi, Jenan Hussein, Mohammed al Dulaimy and others did so much to help the world understand what was taking place on the ground in Iraq. Their spirit and passion for journalism was inpsiring even before you factor in that their reporting took place as Iraq became the war that claimed the most journalist lives and as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders repeatedly documented the attacks taking place within Iraq on journalists and the practice of journalism.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011




President Barack Obama gets mediocre marks for his handling of the economy and Mitt Romney easily outpolls his Republican rivals in an Associated Press survey of economists.

Iraq? In what may rank as the most obvious statement of today (doesn't make it any less true), Brookings' Kenneth M. Pollack (Newsweek via Khaleej Times) observes, "At least the Nixon administration got something of a 'decent interval' before North Vietnam betrayed their strategy from Southeast Asia." Iraq has not gotten with the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk, no. But when has it ever? American politicians have repeatedly attempted to portray Iraq in some manner that reflected well on them -- apparently forgetting that Iraq is an independent country of millions of people and not a mirror on the wall. Barack's only the latest politician to become entranced with his own image. How bad are things right now? The editorial board of The Economist is insisting that the country needs "to enact a federal formula, already provided for by the constitution. The Kurds, enjoying an unprecedented measure of autonomy, have long been keen on this. Most of Iraq's Sunni Arabs have hitherto loathed the idea, seeing it as a conspiracy to do them down and to belittle a great nation. But they should now think again. Mr Maliki's best chane of making Iraq work is to go federal." This is an issue that's been debated at the Guardian with Ranj Alaaldin advocating for a federation and more recently, yesterday, Hayder al-Khoei rejecting. al-Khoei argues, "Federalism may have worked wonders for the Kurds, but their success cannot be taken as a blueprint for the rest of the country. The Kurds are an exception because they have had de facto autonomous rule since 1991. That was a consequence of the brutality of the Ba'ath regime. Today, Iraqi villages are not being gassed, mass graves are not being filled with hundreds of thousands of corpses, and entire towns and cities are not being cleansed by the central government." Meanwhile Michigan State University professor Mohammed Ayoob (CNN) maintains that "it is only Iran that can now prevent Iraq from sliding into the abyss of chaos and disintegration. This argument has a simple logic. Iran is the country with the greatest leverage with the Shia-dominated al-Maliki government." By contrast the Telegraph of London feels it is for the US to stop a return of civil war and referencing Nouri's trashing of the Erbil Agreement, "In the process, he has called into question the settlement between Iraq's competing groups that helped restore a measure of stability. [. . .] Left unspoken was America's implict role as guarantor of this settlement. Iraqis asked, sotto voice, how long it would last after US forces withdrew. The answer, we have learnt, is that its foundations were undermined within hours." The administration does not share the Telegraph's view that the its their role. At the State Dept today, spokesperson Mark C. Toner declared, "Well, look, overseeing and husbanding implies that we're somehow calling the shots. [. . .] And Iraq's a sovereign country. I think we're engaged with all the political parties on the ground. And, again, we're urging that they come together, that they talk through the current situation and issues, and reach a consensus that way."
Tarqi Alhomayed (Al Arabiya) feels there may be a bright spot in the crisis in that it's allowed Nouri to show his true nature, "This is because Nuri al-Maliki has moved away from the political game, and instead resorted to using force against his opponents, immediately following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. This represented a red flag to all those who are concerned about the future of Iraq. Al-Maliki is a man who has not mastered the political game, and it seems that he does not even believe in politics at all, or at least not as much as he believes in the power of force. Therefore, he has over-used what he terms 'the law,' and we now see him seeking to arrest Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, and fire his own deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq, whilst he is also clashing with Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi." In addition, rumors swirl that the Minister of Finance, Rafie al-Issawi, will be charged with something shortly. All three are members of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections.

And al-Issawi teams with Ayad Allawi (former prime minister and head of Iraqiya) and Osama al-Nujaifi (Speaker of Parliament) to pen "How to Save Iraq From Civil War" in today's New York Times:

We are leaders of Iraqiya, the political coalition that won the most seats in the 2010 election and represents more than a quarter of all Iraqis. We do not think of ourselves as Sunni or Shiite, but as Iraqis, with a constituency spanning the entire country. We are now being hounded and threatened by Mr. Maliki, who is attempting to drive us out of Iraqi political life and create an authoritarian one-party state.
In the past few weeks, as the American military presence ended, another military force moved in to fill the void. Our homes and offices in Baghdad's Green Zone were surrounded by Mr. Maliki's security forces. He has laid siege to our party, and has done so with the blessing of a politicized judiciary and law enforcement system that have become virtual extensions of his personal office. He has accused Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, of terrorism; moved to fire Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq; and sought to investigate one of us, Rafe al-Essawi, for specious links to insurgents -- all immediately after Mr. Maliki returned to Iraq from Washington, wrongly giving Iraqis the impression that he'd been given carte blanche by the United States to do so.

If you're having trouble identifying the players, Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) provides flash cards here.

Tony Karon (Global Post) observes, "Maliki, both by measures of votes in parliament and control of men under arms, is stronger than any other faction leader in Iraq right now, but he's not strong enough to rule Iraq on his own. Indeed, he has the job of prime minister only because Iran -- mindful of the importance of keeping a friendly government in Baghdad -- intervened to convince rival Shi'ite leaders, most important among them being Moqtada al-Sadr, to back another Maliki term. But other neighbors, particularly those at odds with Iran such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have other ideas. Both backed the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc that challenged Maliki, and Saudi Arabia has been engaged in proxy conflicts with Iran across the region." Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) note Nouri "effectively runs the Defense and Interior ministries and has created a separate security force that answers to him alone. He bypassed parliament to install Shi'ite allies in key positions [. . .]"
And right there we need to clarify some issues that are wrong in reporting. (Not wrong with the AP article.) Al Jazeera maintains that Nouri al-Maliki has benched Saleh al-Mutlaq. Parliament told Nouri last week that they would review the matter in the new year and not until then. Nouri has no power on that. It is wrong to say that Nouri's done anything here other than ask that al-Mutlaq be stripped of his powers.

al-Mutlaq was nominated for his post and he was confirmed by Parliament. That's why Nouri can't just exile him. Nouri swore -- back in December 2010 -- that the security ministries would be filled -- that's the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Defense. They have not been filled. Nouri wants credit for calling someone 'acting' minister. An acting minister is not a real minister. He or she has not been nominated by Nouri and approved by the Parliament. So Nouri can call Howard Dean "acting Minister of Defense" tomorrow and then strip him of the title next week. That's because Parliament never confirmed it. If Parliament doesn't sign off, you're just Nouri's puppet. Parliament did vote to approve Saleh al-Mutlaq and that's why Nouri can't just discard him without their permission.
That's the first thing. The other thing that needs to be cleared up is the notion that Tareq al-Hashemi "fled" to the KRG. This pops up in reports after reports including, today, Al Jazeera where a man supposedly sympathetic to Iraqiya insists that al-Hashemi fled and therefore he's unsympathetic to him. "Fled" can be a descriptive word. It can also be a pejorative word. In this case, it is the wrong word.
Dropping back to Sunday, December 18th:
AFP reports, "Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and several of his bodyguards were escorted off a plane at Baghdad airport on Sunday because two of the guards were wanted on 'terrorism charges,' officials said, the latest step in a deepening political crisis." Also on the plane was Saleh al-Mutlaq, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister whom Nouri has asked Parliament to strip the powers of. al-Mutlaq was also forced off the plane. On today's All Things Considered (NPR), Kelly McEvers offered this take:

Kelly McEvers: Here in Kuwait, just having crossed over the border, we have all these US commanders telling us that they're leaving Iraq in a better place, that it's a thriving democracy. Yet in Baghdad it looks like you have Prime Minister Maliki -- who is a Shi'ite and whose government is Shi'ite -- going after his rivals who are Sunnis. Just yesterday, charges were announced against the Vice President who is Sunni and troops surrounded his house. The Maliki government accuses him of being involved in a terrorist plot. But Maliki's detractors say this is sectarian revenge. So you know we've got these promises from US commanders that things are going really well but this kind of national reconciliation government looks like it's unraveling.

Nizar Latif (The National) observes:

Those moves have added to a fear among the prime minister's critics that he is seeking to eliminate rivals and consolidate power.Iraqiyya warned it would pull out of the coalition government unless Mr Al Maliki agreed to seek a solution that respects "democracy and civil institutions".
"Iraq is now in a very difficult position. This is a critical time," said Eytab Al Douri, an MP with the Iraqiyya bloc. "If solutions are not found quickly, Iraq will be heading towards sectarian and ethnic divisions, and a return to civil war."
---------------- [End of Dec. 18th excerpt] ----------------
CNN reported this afternoon that an arrest warrant had been issued for Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi by the Judicial Commitee with the charge of terrorism. Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) terms it a "poltical crisis" and states, "The government says this has nothing to do with the US withdrawal, that this has nothing to do with the prime minister consolidating his grip on power. However, members of al-Iraqiya bloc, which Hashimis is a member of, say 'No, [Maliki] is trying to be a dictator." Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes, "The arrest warrant puts Mr. Maliki on a possible collision course with the Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous region in the north and participate in the central government but have longstanding disputes with Baghdad over oil and land; and with Sunni Arabs in provinces like Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh and Salahuddin who have pressed in recent weeks for more autonomy from Baghdad with the backing of the Kurds."
It is INCORRECT to say -- as many outlets are -- that Tareq al-Hashemi fled to the KRG. Tareq al-Hashemi had scheduled meetings. He departed from Baghdad on Sunday the 18th. Before he could, he and others were cleared from the plane by Nouri's forces. Had the arrest warrant been issued, Nouri's forces could have kept him from re-boarding. They didn't do that because there was no, at that time, valid arrest warrant. Monday the 19th, while al-Hashemi is finishing meetings in the KRG, the arrest warrant is issued.
To say that Tareq al-Hashemi fled to the KRG is a pejorative statement ("flee" having the connotation of "coward"). It is also an incorrect statement. Since the arrest warrant was issued, he has stayed in the KRG. You could say he's seeking shelter or refuge or even some form of asylum. But you cannot say he fled and be accurate. Repeating, it is not only incorrect, it is a charged term. He is being called a terrorist. It does matter how you present the facts, it does matter in the court of public opinion. The Council on Foreign Relations can get it right, why can't the press?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011







How bad are things in Iraq right now? The editorial board of the Hindu Times insists, "It has also exposed the hollowness of Washington's claim that Iraqi democracy is now stable enough to justify the December 18 removal of the remaining U.S. combat troops."
Alsumaria TV reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pronounced calls to dissolve Parliament as "untruthful and delusive." Calls to dissolve the Parliament? Yes, things got even wilder over the weekend. Mustafa Habib (Al Mada) observed Saturday that Nouri al-Maliki's targeting Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with terrorism charges and calling for Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq to be stripped of his office have many noticing that both are members of Iraqiya (which came in first in the March 2010 elections; Nouri's State of Law came in second) and, therefore, political opponents of Nouri and that, while the political crisis has revealed a diminished role for the US, it has underscored that the Kurds remain the heart of the country's political process. Dar Addustour reported that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi announced the postponement of the scheduled meeting last Friday of the political blocs while Nouri's spokesperson floated the notion that there are other charges waiting in the wings. Reportedly this includes charging the Minister of Finance, Rafie al-Issawi, with terrorism, specifically with killings in Falluja back in 2006. Like Tareq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, Rafie al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya. al-Hashemi was meeting with Kurdish officials in the KRG when Nouri made his charges and al-Hashemi has remained in the KRG since the charges were made.
And opinions flew right and left. Dar Addustour zeroed in on Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister, issued a statement declaring the matter should have been resolved by the political blocs but has instead played out in the press. Zebari is Kurdish and a member of the PDK political party -- KRG President Massoud Barzani is the head of the PDK. Al Mada added that Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani and US Ambassador James Jeffrey spoke Friday and were calling for a meeting among the political blocs. Rudaw has quoted the KRG President's chief of staff Fuad Hussein stating, "There's no way we would hand over Hashimi to Baghdad. He is our guest." Al Mada noted that State of Law was whining about the Friday meet-up, about having one and including Iraqiya because Iraqiya is boycotting Parliament and so Nouri's political slate does not feel that Iraqiya should be included in the dialogue. Aswat al-Iraq noted, "Iraqiya bloc leader Iyad Alawi described recent events in Iraq as 'liquidation of differences', warning an explosive era waiting Iraq in the coming days, according to an interview with Arabia TV late yesterday (Friday)." And throughout the weekend, as Aswat al-Iraq reported, Iraqiya floated that Parliament to withdraw trust from Nouri. On the topic of Iraqiya, the game Nouri's decided to play can play both ways. Journalist Hadi al-Mahdi was assassinated September 8th. Earlier in the year, he had a run in with Nouri's goons. February 26th, Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported:

Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."

NPR's Kelly McEvers interviewed Hadi for Morning Edition after he had been released and she noted he had been "beaten in the leg, eyes, and head." He explained that he was accused of attempting to "topple" Nouri al-Maliki's government -- accused by the soldiers under Nouri al-Maliki, the soldiers who beat him. Excerpt:
Hadi al-Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.
Hadi al-Mahdi: I started hearing voices of other people. So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, "Where's my brother?" And a third one was saying, "For the sake of God, help me."
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses. He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded. Eventually he was released. Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein. He says the regime that's taken Sadam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust dictators.
Hadi al-Mahdi: They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst -- they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers and corrupt people, stealers.
And then Hadi ended up killed in his own home and many felt Nouri was responsible. Al Mada reports that Maysson al-Damalouji, Iraqiya spokesperson, held a press conference in which she stated that they have files showing the involvement of someone close to Nouri in the assassination. Dar Addustour adds that the official minutes of the investigation into Hadi's assassination features witnesses stating they had been sent threatening letters from a close associate of Nouri's but that the investigation did not follow up on that.
That covers many of the political blocs weighing in over the weekend but not all. In the midst of the political crisis, radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr strode in striking a pose of leadership (genuine or not, I'll leave for others to decide). It started, as Sinan Salaheddin and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reported, with Moqtada proposing a "14-point 'peace code'."
No one in Iraqi or US media seemed to interested in going over the 14 points (or any of them actually) but they became less important as Moqtada and his bloc made more proposals. Monday Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reported cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared that new elections are needed. Dan Morse (Washington Post) adds that Moqtada wants elections "within six months" That's not all Sadr's calling for. Aswat al-Iraq notes:

The Leader of the Shiite Trend, Muqtada al-Sadr, has called Sunday for the trial of Iraq's Vice-President, Tareq al-Hashimy, under the auspices of the Parliament, warning at the same time from the single-party power on the political process in the country.
Answering a question by one of his followers in Baghdad, about the fate of Tareq al-Hashimy, Sadr said: "The issue of Hashimy's trial should take place under
the auspices of the Parliament and the people," adding that "even the sacking of politicians from their posts must take place in a legal manner."
"The issue of confessions against Vice-President, Tareq al-Hashimy and the raising of this issue at the current period may harm the country, its unity and security, including the downfall of the current political process and the security situation, along with harming the political process as well," Sadr said.

What's going on? Moqtada only supported Nouri for prime minister when Tehran told him to. Early on, he'd declared he'd abide by the wishes of his followers and they voted in their own poll in the spring of 2010. They rejected Nouri. Dropping back to the April 7, 2010 snapshot for the results of the referendum Moqtada called:

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).

Following the results, Moqtada kept his anti-Nouri stance for months. Has he broken with Nouri? Earlier, he was among those calling for the Erbil Agreement to be followed. After coming in second in the March 2010 elections, Iraq went into eight or so months of Political Stalemate I in which Nouri refused to allow the Constitution to be followed because he was not willing to give up the post of prime minister. Iraq's current crisis didn't just emerge this month, they have deep roots. Today AP observes, "In the week since the last American troops left Iraq, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an arrest warrant for the country's highest-ranking Sunni official, threatened to exclude the rival sect's main political party from his governmt and warned that 'rivers of blood' would flow if Sunnis seek an autonomous region." Going back to the roots of the current problems . . .

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"Moqtada tries to solve the political crisis?"
"Iraqi Christians"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "I See Ba'athis..."
"Moqtada wades into the political crisis"
"The ahistorical and the insulting"

"Merry Christmas"
"Joy to the world"
"Christmas day flying"
"He should be on his knees begging forgiveness"