Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reality emerges



The Barack magic is over or at least very challenged.

Too much change. Too little change. The wrong change. The "Yes We Can" mantra was stopped or railroaded. And the wonder of Barack Obama is over. Reality has been tested.

The American people's mood ranges from disappointment to disgust, to frustration and fear. These are all negative factors. Whatever the rationale, the Republicans won and the next few years won't be the same.

The Obama administration is at a critical stage; they may very well have destroyed the Democratic Party. Their creditability is seriously impaired. It would not be surprising if the party asked Barack Obama not to run for a second term, for fear of losing. Who wound run? Perhaps, Hillary Clinton--even though she insists that she will not run for president in 2012.


Yesterday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a statement. As Mike noted last night, The NewsHour (PBS) led yesterday's headlines with it:

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. may be open to keeping American troops in Iraq past the end of 2011, the current deadline for withdrawal. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested today the timetable could slide, but he went on to say, "The initiative clearly needs to come from the Iraqis." Gates also urged Iraq's political factions to end eight months of deadlock and form a new government.

Today on The Takeaway (PRI), retired Col Jack Jacobs joined John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee to discuss Gates' remarks. Excerpt:
Celeste Headlee: So what do you make of this comment from Defense Secretary Robert Gates? What do you think is motivating him to make this? Is he -- is he saying -- is this a message for the Iraqi government saying, "Put in the request"?
Col Jack Jacobs: He probably already had a conversation with people over there and they have indicated that they might ask and what would be the American response if they did ask? But we had for a long time expected to leave troops either in Iraq or in and around Iraq for a long, long time past the deadline because we have so many obligations and opportunities in places like Kuwait and so on. We weren't going to completely pull out of this in any case.
Matthew Rothschild: I'm Matt Rothschild the editor of The Progressive magazine with my "Progressive Point of View" which you can also grab off our website at Don't hold your breath next December for all US troops to get out of Iraq that's the exit date required by the US-Iraqi accord but the Pentagon's been asking for an extension for a long time now. This week Defense Secretary Robert Gates practically begged the Iraqis to ammend the accord to allow US troops to stay there well into the future. He told the AP, "We're ready to have that discussion when and if they want to speak with us."
Bill Van Auken (WSWS) contributes a major essay on the latest:

The reality is that the Obama administration is presently exerting intense political pressure aimed at breaking an eight-month-old deadlock in the formation of a new Iraqi government so that it can have a US client regime capable of taking the "initiative" of asking American troops to stay.
US efforts have intensified in the aftermath of the midterm elections as part of a broad further turn to the right in both US foreign and domestic policies.
Last August, the Obama administration had celebrated the withdrawal of a single Stryker brigade from Iraq, proclaiming that its members were the last combat troops deployed in the country and that the US combat mission had ended.
The reality is that nearly 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq, the bulk of them with the same combat capabilities as the brigades that have been withdrawn. The US Air Force remains in control of Iraqi airspace and the US Navy controls its coastlines.
Obama sought to exploit the drawdown of US forces from their peak of 170,000—many of them redeployed to the "surge" in Afghanistan—for political purposes, claiming in the run-up to the elections that the Democratic president had fulfilled his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq.
This was a patent fraud. The timetable for the troop drawdown and the December 2011 final withdrawal was set not by Obama, but rather by a Status of Forces Agreement negotiated between the Bush administration and the US puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
The Obama administration is now moving to abrogate this Bush era treaty in order to secure an indefinite US military grip over Iraq.
The immediate impediment to this plan is the absence of a government in Baghdad to sign a new agreement. Eight months after the election last March, the country's rival political factions have been unable to cobble together a viable coalition.

Which brings us to the stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's eight months and two days and still counting.
Leila Fadel (Washington Post) notes the latest rumors that a deal has been reached and explains the expected process: "Legislators are expected to meet Thursday afternoon for only the second time since the inconclusive March 7 election. Under the deal reached Wednesday, the parliament is expected to appoint a speaker from Iraqiya, then name the current Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, as president. He, in turn, will name Maliki as prime minister. Maliki will then have to put together a cabinet that a simple majority in Iraq's parliament will have to approve." Whomever is named PM-designate -- whenever they're named -- will have 30 days to pull together a cabinet. Nouri's past history of ministers walking out -- as well as his own boasting in April 2006 that he'd put together a cabinet before 30 days -- are forgotten, apparently. Also forgotten is what this says: Elections are meaningless.
If the rumors are true about the make up of the next government and that does come to pass, the message is: "Elections are meaningless, voters stay home." The president and the prime minister remain the same? Only the speaker changes?
They didn't need a national election to change the speaker. Mahmoud Mashadani had been the Speaker and was repeatedly the victim of a disinformation campaign by the US State Dept -- with many in the media enlisting (such as in 2006 when he was in Jordan on business and a certain reporter at a certain daily LIED and said he was in Iraq, hurt and sad and refusing to see anyone -- that lie would have taken hold were it not for the Arab press). He stepped down. When he did so, Iyad Samarrai became the next Speaker and that was done by Parliament, no national elections required. So the message from the 2010 elections appears to be -- if rumors are correct -- that there is no point in voting. Iyad Samarrai got vanished from the narrative. Reporters and 'reporters' like Quil Lawrence (declaring victory for Nouri March 8th, one day after the elections) might have been a little more informed if they'd bothered to pay attention. Mahmoud Mashadani stepped down as Speaker. It took FOUR months for a new speaker to be appointed. And that was in the spring of 2009. Why anyone thought some magical mood enchancer would change things in 2010 is beyond me.
In a bit of classic understatement, an unnamed Iraqi official tells Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor), "It looks a lot like the old government." And for that, people were imprisoned this year and died this year? Again, these results send a very clear message and it not democracy 'friendly' nor does it help build democracy. Arraf states the rumors are Iraqiya's Osama al-Nujaifi will be the new Speaker. Rumors. Suadad al-Salhy and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) note that the the stalemate "appeared to have broken" AFP's a little more specific. Throughout the day, they've filed reports including one where there was no indication of a deal (filed at approximately noon EST). What changed? They report Ayad Allawi showed for the meet up. But AFP also notes, as do al-Salhy and Ibrahim, that Iraqiya is saying they will iron out details tomorrow and make a decision of whether they accept any agreements -- in other words, the only thing clear is that Parliament is supposed to hold a session tomorrow afternoon. And Reuters states the Speaker post is one of the details that will be considered -- the whom of it. Hemin Babn (Rudaw) cites Iraqiya's Arshad Salihi as stating that final decisions will be made tomorrow by Iraqiya as to whether or not they will be "participating in the government".
The targeting of Iraqi Christians continues today. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports on "a coordinated series of attacks on Christian neighbourhoods in Baghdad" involving over 14 bombings. Jim Muir (BBC News -- link has text and video)adds, "Well a whole rash of bombs, in fact six different parts of Baghdad hit by them. Areas which are absolutely known to be areas of Christian concentration. Obviously no area is completely homogeneous in terms of it's population so among the three killed and the twenty-four we believed to have been wounded, we're not clear at this moment, exactly how many of them may be Christians. But what is very clear is that this was a coordinated attack aimed at areas known to have a Christian label on them and coming about a week after that warning from the Islamic State in Iraq which is a kind of umbrella group for al Qaeda [in Mesopotamia] and related groups that 'all Christians are now fair game.' It also comes just a few hours after Mr. Maliki, the incumbent prime minister visited the cathedral where the bloodbath took place two Sundays ago." Kelly McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition -- link has text and audio), speaking to Steve Inskeep, observed, "The city at one time was a mix of Jews, Christians and Sunni and Shiite Muslims. You know nowadays Jews are all but gone. And Sunnis and Shiites live completely separately from each other. But dozens of Christians who were wounded in the church siege have been flown to Europe for treatment. Some say they won't come back. But in a service this past Sunday, some Christians did vow to stay on. They said they have a mission to, you know, keep the faith alive." Gary Mitchell (Sky News -- link has text and video) quotes the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Emmanuel II Delly, stating, "They are chasing Christians in every neighbourhood in Baghdad." Rawya Rageh (Al Jazeera) observes, "We have seen Christians fleeing Iraq between 2004 and 2006. Their numbers now are down to a third. This is a stepped-up attack to revive the chaos that has affected the Christian community in the past." Sammy Ketz (AFP) quotes Baghdad's St. Joseph's priest, Father Saad Sirap Hanna, stating, "People are panicked. They come to see us in the churches to ask what they should do. We are shattered by what has happened." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) explains:
Christians, most of them eastern rite Catholics, trace their history in this country to the earliest days of Christianity. Before the 2003 war, there were up to a million Christians here -- about 3 percent of the population. Half that number is estimated to have left in the past seven years, continuing an exodus begun after the 1991 Gulf War when Saddam Hussein's secular regime turned increasingly Islamic.
Although thousands of Assyrian Christians and others were killed under Iraq's Ottoman rule a century ago, the attack on the church last week is the worst in the country's recent history. The attack, claimed by an Al Qaeda-linked group, was followed two days later by 16 bombings in Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad that killed at least 70 people.
October 31st, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked. At least 58 people died during the assault. Following that, as Muir noted, the Islamic State of Iraq claimed credit for the siege and released a statement which included: "All Christin centres, organisations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the muhadjideen wherever they can reach them. We will open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood." Today would appear to be a continuation of efforts to make good on that statement. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link has text and video) introduces a video segment featuring footage from the October 31st assault -- from inside the Church -- which Arwa Damon explains. The Church is where some are sought refuge today.

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