Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hank is backdoor company

Starting with an action that begins tomrrow and runs through Monday in the US.  Military Families Speak Out explains:
Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"    
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war."  But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.       
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq.  The four days of events will include:  
* A teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation.  Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.       
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7.  Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop.  Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.      
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq.  Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.        
Friday from noon to three p.m. will offer the teach-in at the Mott House (122 Maryland Ave, NE Washington, DC).  Among those scheduled to participate are Joyce and Kevin Lucey, Elaine Johnson, Tim Kahlor, Stacy Bannerman, American Friends Service Committee Raed Jarrar, IPS' Phyllis Bennis, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Kris Goldsmith and Ryan Deckard and Veterans for Peace's Mike Marceau.  (An aspect of the previous sentence will be noted in tonight's entry.  If you have a question about it, wait until tonight's entry.)
Deborah Haynes and Wail al-Obaidi (Times of London) observe, "Preliminary results, issued today, indicate a drastic shift in the political map nationwide, with Sunni Arabs also securing a better representation after boycotting the last polls four years ago in protest at the US-led occupation.  Final results are not due out for several weeks, but should show little change with 90 per cent of the ballots already counted."  Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) offers these impressions: "Preliminary results from the Baghdad provincial council election have begun to filter out into the Iraqi press. The lead story will probably be that Maliki's Rule of Law list won more than half the seats. But the more important story may be that all of the Sunni lists combined evidently only won four or five seats between them. That, combined with the fiasco in Anbar, could put Sunni frustration firmly back into the center of Iraqi politics – risking alienation from politics, intensified intra-Sunni competition, and perhaps even a return of the insurgency."  UPI notes that 'secular' Nouri al-Maliki spent time in Najaf today . . . briefing Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on the results. Mark Kukis (Time magazine) quotes Ayad Allawi (head of the Iraqi National Accord, CIA asset and one time prime minister of Iraq) whose party did well in the elections stating he wouldn't want to be prime minister again "in a sectarian regim.  I respect religion.  But religion needs to be de-politicized."  Please note, these are not final results.  Lebanon's Daily Star stresses, "The Iraqi regional elections held on Saturday are not expected to deliver a final result for a few weeks".  UPI also points out, "Though Maliki won big in Basra and Baghdad, the post-election political landscape suggests several parties may need to form coalitions in the provincial councils."  al-Maliki was NOT a candidate.  RTT gets the wording right, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and its allies have dominated in the crucial provincial council elections, finishing first in nine out of the fourteen provinces in which elections were held, although reports suggested the bloc would still need to form coalitions in order to govern."  Aamer Madhani (USA Today) also grasps the difference between candidates and someone not even running and notes, "But throughout the country, voting went along sectarian lines, with predominantly Shiite provinces backing Shiite parties and Sunni-majority provinces choosing Sunni parties vying for 440 local government seats in 14 of the country's 18 provinces."  Jane Aarraf (Christian Science Monitor) states 90% of the vote was counted (she also hails al-Maliki for his 'win' -- so take that into account as well) and, "In Iraq's north the most dramatic results installed a new Sunni Arab party, al-Hadba, to take charge of the provincial council after winning almost 50 percent.  The council had previously been overwhelmingly dominated by Kurds, who have voewed not to work with the leader of al-Hadba, who is seen as anti-Kurdish."  Calling this al-Maliki's 'win' is a bit like congratulating George W. Bush on Kirsten Haglund's win last year.  The Kurdish Regional Government's President Masoud Barzani issued a statement Tuesday evening, "We respect the will of the people of Iraq.  We hope that this was an emphatic message from Kurds, Arabs, Turkomens, Chaldaens, Assyrians, Muslims, Christians and Yezidis of the Kurdish areas to voice what they really want. . . . I hope and I call on the Iraqi parliament, the federal Iraqi government, the United Nations, the United States, and all concerned parties to respect the will of the people of these areas and to stop avoiding the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution."  Mohammed A. Salih (IPS) explained Article 140 as follows, "Article 140 sketches a three-step plan to remove traces of the Arabisation policy of the regime of former president Saddam Hussein.  The constitution now provides for a census followed by a referendum on the facte of the province, after normalising the situation."  This is about whether or not oil-rich Kirkuk remains a part of the central government out of Baghdad or becomes part of the KRG.  Before the vote -- which would be residents of Kirkuk voting -- takes place, Article 140 outlines a length of measures that would allow Kurds to return.  Reality is that the KRG has done forced 'returns' to Kirkuk, expelling Kurds from the KRG and forcing them to live in Kirkuk.  Has this achieved de-Arabization?  Who knows?  And that would also depend upon who judges it.
Turning to Anbar Province.  As noted yesterday, Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha has been threatening violence over the possibility that the Iraqi Islamic Party might have done better in the polls than his own party.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes, "In Anbar province, in western Iraq, tension between rival Sunni parties have been running high after leaders of the Awakening Council groups, or Sahwa militant groups who fought al-Qaida militants in their areas, accused the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), headed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, of committing fraud to win majority of the 29-seat provincial council. IIP vehemently denied the accusation."  Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports "al-Maliki sent a deputy, Rafie al-Issawi, a Sunni who is an Anbar native" to speak with Shik Risha and that the meeting was also attended by the Iraqi military.  He threatens violence -- he continues to threaten violence -- and he gets his way. All the people who peacefully demonstrated against not being permitted to vote? They're ignored. But it's rush down to make nice with Sheik Risha when, if it was anyone else, the US military would be rushing down to arrest him. And al-Maliki can't stand Risha. The fact that the sheik is being catered to indicates just how little control al-Maliki still has.

Dahger speaks with another tribe leader from the area, Sheik Ali al-Hatem, who has (like many in Anbar) frequently been in conflict with Sheik Risha (al-Hatem has also had issues with the Iraqi Islamic Party)who notes that each tribe put up their own candidates so you had slates competing against each other as well as competing against IIP. He states that Risha is "sowing rifts among the tribes" and that the violence could become "intratribal": "Ahmed is playing with fire. We will confront him if he acts this way and divides the tribes." al-Hatem doesn't call on al-Maliki to reign in Risha, he calls on the US military to do so. (If that happens, it may take place during today's meet-up in Anbar.)  Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports the US Marines are back in "Ramadi in observation roles, patrolling areas from which they had largely withdrawn."  Again, Risha stamps his feet and threatens violence and gets his way. All the people turned away from the polls and refused the right to vote? All Faraj al-Haidari has to offer them is this 'pithy' little comment, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." Again, they should have ditched the peaceful protest and run around threatening violence -- that's the only way al-Haidari would have listened. Sheik Risha works the commission the way he wants to.

And you need to grasp how ludicrous the claims of Risha, et al are. Now ludicrous doesn't mean that they are false. I believe they are but I don't know that. But reporters do know and did report on the vast number of Iraqis in Baghdad, for example, being refused the right to vote. But that's not being investigated. Risha's drama leads to an investigation. Risha is unhappy that his slate of candidates appear (no vote counts are final yet) to have done poorly. He insists that his candidates should have done better and that voter fraud is responsible for them not doing better. Risha says the ballot boxes were stuffed. Don't worry about whether he's right about that or wrong for a second. Just grasp that is the basis of his assertions. Now note this from Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times): "Tribal sheiks and their followers here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, and in Fallouja charge that their political rivals gained control of local election offices and stuffed ballot boxes the day after the elections. Election officials reported that 40% of eligible Anbar voters cast ballots, but tribal candidates say the turnout was half that and that the additional votes are false." Less than 40% voted -- according to the people asserting voter fraud, only 20% of registered voters in Anbar bothered to vote.  Do you not see the conflict in the two positions? "We are popular and we should have won!" vs. "They cheated because really only 20% of the registered voters voted!"  If you're argument is that 80% of registered voters stayed home, you can't make the claim that you're popular with voters at the same time. The two positions are in conflict.

Today the commission that did nothing for the Iraqis who peacefully called for their rights appears to have fixed the Anbar results.   Back to Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy):  
The official results in Anbar are sharply different from the reports of the last few days.  The IHEC tally gave the victory to Saleh al-Mutlak's bloc, followed by Abu Risha's Awakenings Bloc, followed by the Islamic Party in third place. This is a surprise. The behavior of the Islamic Party and the Awakenings bloc over the last few days strongly suggests that they had the same information about the preliminary results-- that the Islamic Party had won. This "adjustment" -- if that's what happened -- for now appears to have defused the crisis over the alleged electoral fraud by the Islamic Party and the threats of violence by the Awakenings leaders by denying victory to either of the two main rivals (Abu Risha says that he's happy with the result).  This resolution is very, shall we say, convenient... and, perhaps, a clever solution to the escalating confrontation. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this soon.. the Islamic Party's website is currently silent on this sudden change in their electoral fortunes.  Where's Nate Silver to analyze the exit poll data when you need him? 

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