Wednesday, June 02, 2010

In need of a cushy government job?









We'll start with some of the financial costs of the Iraq War for the US. The Institute for Public Accuracy issued the following today:
Comerford is executive director of the National Priorities Project, which analyzes budget choices. She said today: "Over the weekend, the National Priorities Project Cost of War counter -- designed to count the total money appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- passed the $1 trillion mark.

"Taxpayers in Natick, Massachusetts have paid $206.9 million for total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For that amount, instead of implementing a proposed 4 percent cut for Natick's libraries in 2011, the town could double its total current library budget, and pay for it for 56 years.

"To date $747.3 billion has been appropriated for the U.S. war in Iraq and $299 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The pending supplemental making its way through Congress will add an estimated $37 billion to the current $136.8 billion total spending for the current fiscal year, ending September 30."

See NPP's
Cost of War counters.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. To form the next government, the magic number is 163. No political party or slate reached that number. The leading slate was Iraqiya which won 91 seats. They were followed by State Of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's slate) with 89 seats, the Iraqi National Alliance with 70 seats and the Kurdistan Alliance with 43 seats, minorities have 8 seats, Gorran has 8 seats, Iraiq Accord Front has 6 seats, Unity Alliance of Iraq has 4 seats, Kurdistan Islamic Union has 4 seats and the Islamic Group of Kurdistan has 2 seats. Speaking on BBC's HARDtalk today, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi outlined a strategy though talk of and focus on the violence may have prevented some from absorbing that.
Ayad Allawi: This is what we are seeing now. There is, again, a new trend of sectarianism emerging in the country which can be -- which can be very bad and this is causing a lot of violence already.
HARDtalk: Do you understand those Shi'ites though who say, "Look we were ruled by Sunni regime, we were ruled by Saddam Hussein. We know that your party is backed heavily by Sunnis and we just don't want to go down that road again. We're not willing to take that risk."
Ayad Allawi: No -- Well, uh, you know, it's uh, the-the Iraqiya is Sunni and Shia, it's not --
HARDtalk: No, but you were heavily backed of course by Sunnis.
Ayad Allawi: Because they wanted to see change. As the Shi'ites voted for us, the Sunnis voted for us. The Sunnis want to see change and of course they don't want to align themselves with Shi'ite groups so they found a secular group which is us and they voted for us. And I think they should be encouraged. And people want to see change in the country ultimately. They don't want to be -- to have the country stagnate on sectarian issues and bases.
HARDtalk: You've warned that unless there is a deal, the country is in danger, and I quote you, "of descending into a new sectarian war." That's very strong language. What are you saying there?
Ayad Allawi: I am saying that if sectarianism comes to Iraq again, depending upon, of course, the drawdown of the American forces and withdrawal, this would lead the country into severe violence unfortunately as we have witnessed in 2005, '06 and '07.
HARDtalk: Are you worried -- you sound as if you're worried in particular about the reactions of the Sunnis who backed your party. That if they feel that they're being sidelined and left out of any government deal by Nouri al-Maliki and other Shi'ites that they will do something.
Ayad Allawi: It's not a matter of them doing something. It's a matter of getting Iraq back into the sectarian beginning when things went very bad -- because sectarianism is associated with extremism. And if this visits Iraq again and the landscape is reversed now back to sectarianism then of course Sunnis and Shi'ites will clash.
HARDtalk: I suppose the ultimate conclusion to that is that it still could lead to this very real worry that people have had for many years of the breakup of Iraq.
Ayad Allawi: Unfortunately. I hope this is not going to happen. I think Iraq is still holding itself very tight. Definitely sectarianism will cause a lot of trouble to the country.
HARDtalk: Aren't you fueling all of these splits though by talking about sectarianism. I was talking to an Iraqi friend of mine and she said very clearly, "Look, I'm secular too -- lilke Allawi. But he's destroying the country. He needs to accept that he's not won this election. He can't become prime minister. He needs to either do a deal with Nouri al-Maliki or just leave the political stage and let someone else get on with trying to form a government.
Ayad Allawi: No, we are -- Of course, we are ready to make a deal but we have won the elections definitely. The seats we have --
HARDtalk: But you're sixty or seventy seats short of an overall majority. That's --
Ayad Allawi: Fine. Everybody is short. Not only us. But we don't want to merge with a sectarian outlook -- whether it's Sunni or Shi'ite. That's why we think and believe our natural allies are the Kurds and will be the Kurds. And we are looking into the smaller groups that have formed the new Parliament -- are forming the new Parliament. And I think this will give us the edge again. But here we are not talking about this. We are talking about two separate issues. One is the spearheading the formation of the government and the second issue is the vote of confidence by the Parliament. It is not necessarily that we are going to get the vote of confidence. Of course, then people like Maliki and others will try their luck. But definitely as far as we are concerned, we should spearhead the formation of the government.
HARDtalk: This would seem on the face of it a very dangerous moment for Iraq.
Ayad Allawi: It is. It is very critical. And that's why everybody has said this is an important milestone for the country.
Key points (in terms of freshness) from the interview: "That's why we think and believe our natural allies are the Kurds and will be the Kurds. And we are looking into the smaller groups that have formed the new Parliament -- are forming the new Parliament. And I think this will give us the edge again." Is it possible? Assuming that the current power-sharing coalition between State Of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance holds and assuming he meant only the Kurdistan Alliance, that's 43 plus 91 for 134. 29 seats would still be needed. Gorran might come on board (might not) to give an additional 8 seats. for example. But if the SOL and INA power-sharing coalition held, that would mean Iraqiya would need -- plus the Kurdistan Alliance -- all the groups (Gorran, Unity Alliance, Iraqi Accord Front, Kurdistan Islamic Union, Islamic Group of Krudistan and the minorities) to not only reach the magic number but to ensure that SOL and INA didn't reach it. At 159, the coalition is only 4 seats away from the magic number.
And with the above, you have a little bit of information. Not all. Waleed Ibrahim, Ahmed Rasheed, Suadad al-Salhy, Jim Loney, Mark Heinrich and Eric Beech (Reuters) report that the Supreme Court ratification of the vote yesterday was "final" and that Chief Judge Midhat al-Mahmoud declared the new parliament will need to be called "into session within 15 days." Leila Fadel (Washington Post) adds, "The court decided that the largest bloc on the day the 325-member parliament convenes will be the first contender to appoint the prime minister and cabinet. It is unclear whether the ruling is binding, but the tentative merger of Maliki's coalition with its Shiite rival, the Iraqi National Alliance, could mean that Allawi's bloc, most popular among Sunni Arabs and secular Iraqis, won't get to form the government." When Parliament is seated (sworn in) what else can happen? Bloc voting can fall aside. Once your sworn in, you are an MP. You can't be replaced by your political party. Right now you can be. And the two candidates that weren't signed off on (one from Iraqiya, the other from the Iraqi National Alliance) are being replaced by their respective political parties. Once you're an MP you may or may not stay in a bloc vote. You may cut a deal. You may loathe Allawi or al-Maliki so much that you cut a deal. Any number of factors could figure into this. Should that happen, Nouri and Ayad will not only need to make deals with individuals in attempts to woo, they'd also need to make sure those already showing support remained firm. notes that the 325 MP seats include 5 for Christians: "In total, 14 seats out of the 325-seat legislature are held by non-Msulims, five of which are Christians. In comparison, Christians held two seats last term." In other Iraqi Christian news, John Pontifex (Catholic Herald) reports on the continued violence aimed at Christians and notes, "It is not clear whether the objective is primarily political - to force Christians out of Mosul into the neighbouring Nineveh plains - or is purely an act motivated by religious bigotry. What is beyond dispute, however, is that Church leaders see a strong government as a pre-requisite for reducing the security risk." Evan Williams (England's Channel 4 News) is embedded with the United States Third Infantry Division explored Mosul for last Friday's broadcast of Unreported World. Williams blogged:
On February 27 this year, he said, three Arab gunmen entered their family home shouting that they had to leave. When Father Marzan's father and two brothers tried pushing the them out of the house, the gunmen opened fire killing all three men instantly.
Father Marzan wouldn't allow us to film his mother, but as he started to describe in detail how her husband and sons were brutally gunned down in their own home, I had the horrible sudden realisation that I should have asked the old lady to leave the room. The look of pain and shock on her face was almost unbearable, as if someone were going to walk in at any moment and tell her it was ok and they were all still alive.
Father Marzan is priest in the Chaldean Church, one of the world's oldest Christian communities, founded 2000 years ago among the Assyrian people of northern Iraq, who have been here for millennia.
They have suffered pogroms and attacks in the past, of course, from the Persians, Arabs and Turks. But a new level of violence is now driving many out of the country for good. When the Americans invaded in 2003, there were about one million Christians in Iraq. Now, Church leaders told us, half have already fled the country and more are trying to leave.
The US military is training police forces in the area and they (Iraqi security forces) tell Williams their guess for what happens when the US departs is "civil war." Aamer Madhani (USA Today) reports from the area (Hamdniyah) and notes threatening calls to nuns and a bombing of the Immaculate Virgin convent, the flood of refugees the violence is creating and, "The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government panel tasked with monitoring religious freedoms around the world for the State Department, recently recommended that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton designate Iraq as a 'country of particular concern' because of the violence against Christians and other religious minorities." AINA notes, "In a recent BBC radio interview, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams lamented that the 'level of ignorance about Middle-Eastern Christianity in the West is very, very high.' According to Williams, many even well informed Westerners think Middle East Christians are primarily 'converts or missionaries,' rather than indigenous communities that predate Islam. Of Tony Blair and George W. Bush, the archbishop surmised their Christianity was 'on the whole, a very, very Western thing,' and, 'I don't sense that either of them had very much sense of the indigenous Christian life and history that there is in the region'."
Meanwhile, the always embarrassing Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) makes the usual idiot of himself today with a whine that could be entitled, "Iraqi Christians Have It Easier!" Based on what, he never can say. He can whine about more of them being in the US (on the first page, burying on the second page the UN point that they make up a huge precentage of Iraq's external refugees) and he can hiss and boo. It's really embarrassing. Elizabeth Campbell of Refugees International might want to think twice before speaking to him again. Her comments are taken out of context and reassembled by Peter to push the story he wants. (Read her comments carefully, she's not backing up the thesis Peter is proposing -- her conditionals undercut his thesis.) The Monitor itself might want to ask why Peter (or as I always think of him: DICK) is pushing something as news when it's not news, it's his opinion. This isn't a column, it's passed off as reporting. He has no proof, the UN does not release the figures he would need, Campbell gives him conditional quotes, and there's no independent backing, just DICK PETER writing about his hunch as if it were fact. For the record, that press pulling that sort of crap? That's exactly what led Mary Baker Eddy to start the Christian Science Monitor. DICK PETER is not only an embarrassment, he's a disgrace to the news outlet.
Yesterday, assertions were made and denied that the Iran had entered Iraq. Xinhua reports, "The Iranian troops entered the Iraqi semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan on Tuesday, Dubai-based Arabiyah Pan Arab news television reported. The Iranian troops have entered 5 km inside the Iraqi territories, the channel said without giving further details about where exactly the incursion took place." Aysor Armenian News adds, "Iranian troops were operating three kilometers inside Iraqi territory following a series of clashes in recent days between Iranian forces and rebels of Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iraqi official said, requesting anonymity." The Kuwait Times runs an AFP report making the same assertion; however, Iran's Fars News Agency quotes KRG Minister of State for Peshmerga Affairs Jafar Mustafa stating, "Infiltration of the Iranian forces into the soil of Iraq's Kurdistan region is a baseless and false claim. We have not witnessed anything like this."

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