Tuesday, June 01, 2010

America's top model






The northern region of Iraq is the Kurdistan Regional Government and, throughout the Iraq War, the northern region has been bombed by the Turkish military. These days, Iran's shelling is becoming a concern. (Iran and Turkey share a border above Iraq.) Sherko Raouf, Shamil Aqrawi and Matt Robinson (Reuters) report that there are rumors (denied by Kurdish officials) that Iran has entered northern Iraq but that over 100 Iraqi families have fled the area in the last seven days. Sunday Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN)reported the Iranian shelling claimed the life of 1 teenage Iraqi girl in nothern Iraq. Xinhua (link has text and audio) identified the 14-year-old as Basouz Jabbar Agha. As with the Turkish military, Iranian military claims their target is the PKK -- a group identified by many countries (including the US) and the European Union as a terrorist organization and one that has established a base in nothern Iraq (among other places). [They would actually claim their target is PJAK and we're not drawing a line between the PKK and PJAK here -- they have the same leader, the same goals and are 'mingled' in the northern Iraq bases.] The PKK seeks an official Kurdish homeland (usually within Turkey) and points to decades of persecution. One of their leaders is Abudllah Ocalan who has been in a Turkish prison since 1999. The BBC reported over the weekend that he was rumored to have announced "he was abandoning efforts for dialogue with the Turkish government." Hurriyet Daily News reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a terrorism summit on Wednesday (Turkey labels the PKK a terrorist organization).
Meanwhile AFP quotes an unnamed "security official" stating that Iranian troops have moved "three kilometers" into northern Iraq. Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) quote KRG spokesperson Kawa Mahmoud stating, "These reports about an Iranian incursion into Krudistan are totally false. There may be Iranian activity near the border, but there is no incursion." The reality? At this point unknown. Iran's most recent invasion of Iran (December 2009) was greeted with denials from some Iraqi government officials and from some Iranian government officials. But the violation of sovereignty did take place. From the December 18th snapshot:
Iraq's requesting that Iran withdraw. Caroline Alexander and Margot Habiby (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraq's National Security Council said today that Iran violated their shared border and Iraq's 'territorial integrity' and called on the Islamic republic to withdraw its forces from the region." Timothy Williams and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) add, "The Iraqi government said Friday that Iranian troops had crossed the border and occupied a portion of an oil field situated on disputed land between the two countries, but Iranian officials immediately and vehemently disputed the account." Dow Jones Newswires states they were told that by a Missan Oil Compnay official that "Iranian forces took hold of an Iraqi well in a disputed section of the border after opening fire against Iraqi oil workers"; however, the official tells Dow Jones this action took place "two weeks ago." Suadad al-Salhy, Missy Ryan and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) quote Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, Deputy Interior Minister, stating, "At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian [soldiers] infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there until this moment." Gulf Daily News adds, "Officials have summoned Tehran's envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said. Iraqi officials said the soldiers crossed into Iraqi territory yesterday and raised the Iranian flag at Fakka." Mosab Jasim (Al Jazeera) states, "The Iraqi president called for an emergency session to discuss what they describe as a violation from Iran, but nothing came out of the meeting and whatever actions they are going to take are still not clear." The President of Iraq is Jalal Talabani. However, the report indicates Jasim was referring to Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) offers this context, "Reports of the incident aggravated long-standing tensions between the countries, which fought a 1980-88 war that claimed as many as a million lives. Although Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government and Shiite Iran have grown closer since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Iraq's Sunni Muslim dictator, Saddam Hussein, border issues remain thorny, with sporadic posturing from both sides." If it's been seized, what's been seized? Alice Fordham (Times of London) explains, "The well is one of several in the Fakka oil field, which was part of a group offered to foreign investors in June, but no contract was awarded." She also notes that Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani went on state television to insist, "Iraq will not give up its oil wealth" today. Adam Arnold (Sky News) offers US military reaction: "A spokesman for the US military confirmed the soldiers had taken control of the oil well but added it was in 'disputed territory' near the border and happened fairly frequently. 'There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran,' he said." While that source is unnamed US Col Peter Newell is on the record offering Arnold context. What really happened? Who knows? It will slowly emerge over the weekend, most likely. What is known is that the talk/rumors/incident had one result. Nick Godt (MarketWatch) reports that the rumors led to an initial rise in the price of oil per barrel today.
Today Alsumaria TV reports, "Central Quality Control revealed that local mineral water bottles in Iraq are more polluted than imported water bottles." Look for Nouri al-Maliki to attempt to spin that as yet another reason why he should continue as prime minister despite four failed years in the post already. Alsumaria TV reported Monday that Nouri was in the Kurdistan Region trying to drum up support there. Nouri continues his stay in the Kurdistan region as he continues attempting to woo the Kurdistan bloc. Alsumaria TV reports that he'll talk today with Jalal Talabani. Talabani is the current president and would like to remain as such -- the two will no doubt attempt to cut a deal on that; however, Jalal's not very popular in the KRG these days and, deal or no deal, his support may end up a negative and not a blessing.

March 7th, Iraq completed Parliamentary elections. Since then, Nouri has done everything legal and illegal to attempt to remain prime minister despite his political slate's second place win. Saturday Khaled Farhan (Reuters) reported, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday his party would not compromise on its choice of government leader, resisting pressure from potential coalition partners for him to step aside." Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) added the "comments revealed an unwillingness to budge in negotiations." Mshari al-Zaydi (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reported Saturday that the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani has stated he is favoring no one and quotes Iraqiya's Raif al-Issawi stating, "Al Sistani expressed no explicit support for anyone." One meeting that has not taken place is between Nouri and Ayad Allawi. Sunday Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reported, "An informed sources who spoke to Ashraq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity revealed that the reason that Iraqi Prime Minister and leader of the State of Law coalition Nuri al-Maliki backed out of a meeting with the leader of the Iraqiya bloc Iyad Allawi, was a visit undertaken by a senior official from one of the neighboring countries. The source said that 'the official's visit which took place two days prior to the meeting that was scheduled to take place between Allawi and al-Maliki was to put pressure to prevent this meeting from taking place, and that is what happened'."
Who should form the government? In Alsumaria TV's ongoing poll, 58.59% currently say Ayad Allawi. Of course it's a nonscientific poll but then so was the one Quil Lawrence and others pimped the day after the election -- the one that had Nouri's State Of Law sweeping the elections with a clear majority. No doubt due to time and space limitations, Quil and the others were unable to explain that Nouri's spokespeople provided them with the poll or that State Of Law paid for the poll. You had to go to the European media to find those facts out. Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports that the election results have been certified by Iraq's Supreme Court . . . But it's never that easy. 323 people have been certified as winners. But there were 325 races. The two not certified yet are Iraqiya's Omar al-Karbouly and the Iraqi National Alliance's Furat Muhssein Saeed. Jim Muir (BBC News) points out that this development should not be read as the coalition government is on the verge of being formed and, "The ruling meant that all Mr Maliki's relentless efforts to whittle away at Mr Allawi's narrow lead by lodging complaints and demanding a manual recount in Baghdad were in vain. The court referred the cases of two of the elected MPs for further examination, but only one belonged to the Iraqiyya bloc, and both could be replaced from within their own lists, so this would not make any difference." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) explains what, according to the Constitution, is supposed to happen next, "Within 15 days, President Jalal Talabani is supposed to summon the new parliament for its first session, at which the 325 legislators are to choose a speaker and two deputies. Within 30 days of that first meeting, the parliament is to elect a new president, who will be empowered to ask the leader of the biggest bloc to name a prime minister and form a government." Andrew England (Financial Times of London) notes, "Diplomats hope the parties will form an inclusive government that represents all groups in a nation blighted by sectarian and ethnic divisions. But the concern is that Iraq will have a Shia-dominated administration, similar to the one that took office in 2005. If so, Arab Sunnis, who turned out in force to vote for Iraqiya, may feel excluded from the political process." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued the following statement today:
I welcome today's action by the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court certifying the results of the national election. Voter turnout in the March 7th vote was strong across Iraq's 18 provinces. Iraq's electoral commission and security forces successfully organized and carried out a credible and competitive election. Since then, the electoral commission has worked in a careful, professional way to bring the process to this concluding point. This experience demonstrates that Iraqis want to use the political process to choose their leaders and settle differences.
With the election results officially certified, we call on Iraq's political leaders to move forward without delay to form an inclusive and representative government that will work on behalf of the Iraqi people.
In the coming months, we will work together as our partnership continues its transition with the goal of building a robust and long-lasting relationship between our two nations -- a partnership that will contribute to growing peace and prosperity in Iraq and stability in the Middle East.
Meanwhile Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that Iraqi exiles with ties to the Ba'ath Party, apparently former leaders, have held meetings in Istanbul and Damascus:

The groups could find receptive audiences in Iraq if the next government is widely seen as having insufficient Sunni representation. Many Sunnis accuse the Shiite-led Iraqi government of being sectarian, pointing to factors such as the disproportionate number of Sunni detainees and efforts to weed out Sunnis from government jobs.
Sunnis made a strong showing in the March 7 parliamentary elections, propelling the largely secular Iraqiya bloc to a first-place finish. The bloc did not win enough seats to secure the majority needed to form a government, however, making it likelier that an alliance of two Shiite groups will appoint the new prime minister.
Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) observes, "The nearly three-month delay is frustrating for ordinary Iraqis, who risked their lives to vote, and for American officials, who need to coordinate the full withdrawal of U.S. forces with the next government. The Obama administration hopes to have just 50,000 service members remaining in Iraq by the end of August, but many political observers are skeptical that the incoming Iraqi government will be seated by then." Adam Levine and Paul Steinhauser (CNN) report on a new CNN - Opinion Research Corp poll which found that if an Iraqi government is formed by August, US respondents support the drawdown by 64% but that public approval slips to 51% if there's not a government in place. The term "stable" is used, that's a qualifier and it's meaningless. Go over the polling data and the judgment being made by respondents is whether or not a government is in place. The slip still keeps those favoring the drawdown at above 50%; however, go over the polling data and you see weakening factors. In other words, should a bloodbath take place in Iraq, that over 50% could drop further.

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