Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You'd be skinny too feeding that ego







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."
What the hell is going on?
Over the weekend, Nouri went for another power grab.
It actually started before Saturday but the press was ga-ga over photo-ops. 'Last soldier out! No, really, last US soldier out! Except for the ones still there! Don't look behind the curtain!' And apparently covering for Barack was more important than telling Americans what was taking place in Iraq.
Late Saturday night online (Sunday in print), Liz Sly (Washington Post) noted that the 'government' in Iraq is "unraveling faster than had been anticipated Saturday." Really? All in one day. Well, no, not in one day. She continued, "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders."
"In recent days."
Golly, seems to me if you know -- for even just one damn day -- that Nouri's goons -- in tanks, no less -- are 'ringing' his political opponents home, you report it then. Yet even with Sly reporting this late Saturday -- by which point it was already all over the Iraqi media -- you had Jim Axlerod (CBS News) filing garbage and crap and pretending that was covering Iraq.
There are actually two opponents Nouri is attacking. Let's walk through. Saturday,
Ines Tariq (Al Mada) reported on the controversy over whether or not the country's Supreme Court has issued an arrest warrant for Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Yes, rumors were already swirling about an arrest warrant.
Now put al-Hashemi on hold for a moment and let's note the other politcal opponent Nouri's targeting and, don't worry, when we move over to Sunday, the strands come together. Al Rafidayn reported Nouri al-Maliki was asking Parliament for a vote to withdraw confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Nouri declared al-Mutlaq is no longer fit for office as a result of an interview he gave to CNN. Last Tuesday, Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is amassing dictatorial power as U.S. troops leave the country, risking a new civil war and the breakup of the nation, his deputy warned Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that he was "shocked" to hear U.S. President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as "the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq." He said Washington is leaving Iraq "with a dictator" who has ignored a power-sharing agreement, kept control of the country's security forces and rounded up hundreds of people in recent weeks.
[. . .]
"America left Iraq with almost no infrastructure. The political process is going in a very wrong direction, going toward a dictatorship," he said. "People are not going to accept that, and most likely they are going to ask for the division of the country. And this is going to be a disaster. Dividing the country isn't going to be smooth, because dividing the country is going to be a war before that and a war after that."

Like Tareq al-Hashemi, Saleh al-Mutlaq is a member of the Iraqiya political slate. Dar Addustour reported that the homes of al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq as well as the home of Rafi Hiyad al-Issawi had been surrounded by "tanks and special forces." Dr. Rafi Hiyad al-Issawi was the previous Deputy prime minister (2007 through 2010). He was the head of Falluja General Hospital prior to that and he is currently the Minister of Finance. Like the other two, al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya. Now that's Saturday.

And, hopefully, you'll agree that the above should have been news. That the photo ops should have ceased immediately. Let's move to Sunday where Nouri's still got a few tricks to play. AFP reported, "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, I said the strands would meet, was Saleh al-Mutlaq.
al-Mutlaq was also forced off the plane. On Sunday'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.

That should have been the lead story on the Sunday evening newscasts (network evenings news). Kelly McEvers filed in time for All Things Considered. Other should have been filing as well. Instead, you got this piece of garbage report by Jim Axelrod -- who damn well knows better -- airing on the CBS Evening News Sunday (link is text and video). Search in vain for any mention of arrest warrants or tanks around politicians' homes or politicians being pulled off planes in Baghdad. You won't find them. Jim whored. Jim embarrassed himself. And if I were Jim's age and his health record, I'd be seriously worried about my legacy because there may not be a lot of time left and I really wouldn't want to go out as a whore.
Are you in the news business or not? If you are and you're filing a report on Iraq on Sunday, you damn well include what's going on. Sunday, Nizar Latif (The National) observed:

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."

Roy Gutman, Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that there were claims of confessions being made by other Tareq al-Hashemi guards. If so, it's worth noting that Iraqi 'confessions' often result from torture making them unreliable at best. Gutman, Issa and Hammoudi note Nouri's government planned to air the 'confessions' on TV:

Iraq's Interior Ministry announced Saturday that it would televise the confessions of the first two suspects that night, but the plan touched off a firestorm. The U.S. Embassy, silent for most of the past year in the face of other political excesses, objected publicly. It said in a statement that U.S. officials had not yet seen the actual confessions and urged Iraq to investigate all allegations "in a transparent manner in accordance with Iraqi law."
On Sunday, Iraq's supreme judicial authority ruled that the confessions of the alleged "cell" members couldn't be aired until the investigation is completed.

QUESTION: Yes, ma'am. Almost time for the departure of the last American soldier from Iraq. The Iraqi prosecutor general issued a warrant arrest for the Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and the Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Both are Sunnis and from the Iraqiya or affiliated with the Iraqiya coalition. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, we are closely monitoring these reports that an arrest warrant has been issued, in particular for Vice President al-Hashemi. We are talking to all of the parties. We've expressed our concern regarding these developments. We're urging all political sides in Iraq to work out their differences peaceably, politically, through dialogue, and certainly in a manner that is consistent with democratic political processes and international standards of rule of law. Ambassador Jeffrey has been in contact with all of the parties in recent hours.
QUESTION: Victoria, I mean, coming so soon after Maliki's visit to Washington, is that Mr. Maliki saying that I'm really in Iran's camp? I mean, is that how it is interpreted in this building? Or should it be interpreted that way?
MS. NULAND: There are a number of issues that Iraqis have been struggling with for a number of years. We want to see, in this next phase of Iraq's development, this sovereign phase, Iraqis work together within Iraq's democratic institutions to preserve national unity, to address the underlying political issues that form the basis of these kinds of tensions. We want to see Iraq's sovereignty protected and their democratic institutions protected. So that is a goal that we share. We share that goal with most of Iraq's leaders, and we're urging them to work together on these issues.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have anything to indicate that these warrants were issued in any way that doesn't comport with democratic processes? Do you doubt the motivation behind these reports of arrest warrants?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I've addressed our general view that we want to ensure that, whatever is done, it's within the democratic possibilities of Iraq and within international standards of rule of law. We obviously have not been privy to the underlying documents, et cetera, and we don't know where this is going from here. But again, we want to see dialogue, and we want to see resolution of these things within Iraq's democratic processes.
We're being kind and I'm not inserting names but leaving "Question" in place. Kind? How the hell do you not know know who Saleh al-Mutlaq is? When Nouri lodged the complaint with Al Jazeera against Inside Iraq, among the gripes was the charge that al-Mutlaq was able to dispense "propaganda" on Jassim al-Azzawi's program. The reason we didn't fall of Al Jazeera's garbage passed off as Libyan War coverage is because I knew the background on what vanished Jassim al-Azzawi from his own program and then what got the program killed (he was allowed to host the final episode). It was Nouri. Nouri and the government of Qatar. That's why their coverage is so embarrassing from Iraq.
From Inside Iraq that began airing January 22, 2010, they're discussing the efforts to keep al-Mutlaq off the ballot for the March 7, 2010 elections.
Jassim al-Azzawi: [Overlapping] Yes, I shall come to the scare tactics and the fear politics that you mention but before that, I guess our international audience would like to know, who stands behind this campaign to disbar more then 500 people? Some of them such senior figures as yourself. The National Dialogue Front has about 12 members in Parliament. You've been in politics for many, many years. I guess the logical question is: Who's behind it? It is my role as a presenter and a journalist to ask the tough questions and perhaps it's your role as a politician and even your perogative not to answer. Let me give you a couple of options and see which one you lean on. Is it Ahmed Chalabi, the former head of the de-Ba'athification? Is it Prime Minister al-Maliki fearing that Saleh al-Mutlaq has the wind behind him and one day he might even become the president of Iraq? Or is it another force? Who is exactly orchestrating this?
Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well Ahmed Chalabi could not do what was done alone. I think there's a power behind that and my belief is that Iran is behind that and Ahmed Chalabi is only a tool -- Ahmed Chalabi agenda is a tool to do this. And Ahmed Chalabi is not alone. We discovered that Ahmed Chalabi now has an intelligence association in Iraq and he worked with so many people outside the Iraqi government. And what happened really surprised everybody. The same day that this decision was taken, everybody was saying, "I know nothing about it." You ask al-Maliki, he says, "I know nothing about it." You ask the president [Jalal Talabani], he says he knows nothing about it. You ask the Chairman of the Parliament, he knows nothing about it. Then who is doing that? We discover there is a small organization which does not exist legally. The de-Ba'athification committee has been frozen -- including Ahmed Chalabi himself -- has been frozen by the prime minister and by the president. And another committee, which is the Accountability, came in but it was not formed because the Parliament did not vote on the names that were being proposed by the prime minister because most of them are from al Dahwa Party [Nouri's party].
January 2010, J. Scott Carpenter and Michael Knights' "Iraq's Politics of Fear" (Foreign Policy) explained:

The ban will mainly affect candidates from the Iraqiyya coalition, a cross-sectarian alliance dominated by secular nationalists and led by Iyad Alllawi, the first Iraqi prime minister of the post-Saddam era. Saleh Mutlaq, one of the three most senior leaders in the coalition, was among the candidates struck from the ballot -- along with all candidates from his party, the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue. Wathab Shakir, the Sunni Arab head of the national reconciliation committee, was also banned, alongside numerous candidates of the Unity of Iraq coalition, another cross-sectarian nationalist alliance.

Iraqiya was the slate most targeted with (false) charges of Ba'athism. The charges came from the Justice and Accountability Committee steered by Ahmed Chalabi and his beloved Ali al-Lami whose fate was to be gunned down in May of 2011 with his brother Jamal Faisal gunned down in June -- reportedly it was Shia on Shia violence stemming from some deals al-Lami had going on the side. (Deals? He was allegedly peddling his ability to influence and allegedly either went back on a promise or didn't have the power he claimed.)
Despite Nouri targeting Iraqiya and picking off candidates (some of whom were barred from running, some of whom were assassinated) and despite the glowing press his State of Law political slate received in Iraq (see Deborah Amos' "Confusion, Contradiction and Irony: The Iraqi Media in 2010," Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center) and despite his quickly tossed together projects ahead of the election (oh, look, water at last for our neighborhood), Nouri still couldn't pull out a win.

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