Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Bitch-in-Chief






Alsumaria reports today that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his concern over the continued political crisis in Iraq and how they hinder efforts at progress within the country.  The Secretary-General made these remarks in a report handed over to the United Nations' Security Council.  Also noting the impasse is Sheikh Abudl Mahdi al-Karbalai, a representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Al Mada reports  the Sheikh declared at Friday morning prayers that the Iraqi politicians are unaware of the way the people suffer.
As the gridlock continues, Catherine Cheney (Trend Lines via Wolrd Politics Review) offers an analysis of one of the main political players in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr:
Now that he is back in Iraq, Sadr is positioned to play a key role in the next elections. In the midst of a contest for power among Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites that has created political gridlock in Iraq, Sadr has joined with Kurdish and Sunni parties in opposing  Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a fellow Shiite. But he has to tread carefully to avoid alienating the devout Shiites who form his main base of support.
"The Sadr movement and its durability is something that surprised everybody at first," Duss continued. "Sadr has been written off and counted out countless times since the invasion. He has had his ups and downs. But the fact is that his movement is based upon poor urban Shiites, of whom there are many in Iraq, and as long as he is speaking to and serving that constituency, he is going to continue to have an important political role in Iraq."
This as Al Mada reports the Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahma Khalil  is stating that Nouri's State of Law doesn't want to solve the crisis which is why it has made one threat after another -- early elections, dissolve Parliament, dismiss Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Meanwhile Iraqiya states State of Law uses intimdation in an attempt to get their way.  Dar Addustour notes that al-Nujaifi met with Nouri al-Maliki Thursday night.

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports on how the Parliament's sessions are often televised but, even so, not everything is televised.  For example, one MP shares that they are often briefed on a bill -- whether it's legal, whether it's sound -- by specialists in the area and these briefings do not get televised.  Some bills are withdrawn and those actions are not televised.  One MP feels that everything should be before the public. Others feel there is too much information being televised while some argue that the experts and specialists appearing before the Parliament to brief them on the bills are unnecessary because the bills result form deals and agreements within Parliament and they don't need any advice with regards to that.  Kitabat notes that it was announced yesterday that 100 MPs will work on drafting a law to limit the three presidencies -- Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Iraqi President -- to two terms only.  Gorran (Change) the struggling third party in the KRG tells Al Mada that they have no position on the issue of term limits.
Violence continues in Iraq today.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Baghdad home bombing targeting a Lt. Colonel with the Ministry of the Interior -- he wasn't home, his parents were and the 2 are dead. AFP says only the mother died, that the frather was left injured and they note a Tuz Khurmatu car jacking where the driver of the car was murdered and his car stolen.   All Iraqi News adds that bomb attacks targeting Shi'ite mosques in Kirkuk left four people injured.  Al Mada notes the number wounded from the mosque attacks rose to five (three were police officers) and that there were at least two bombs.  In addition, they report four wounded from one family and that two rockets were fired at their home.
Violence can take many forms especially when Nouri remains unable to provide security.  Today it's a bomb attack, tomorrow is tainted water.  Al Mada reports Iraqiya MP Nahida Daini is calling out the promoters of "food terrorism," vendors selling food and beverages that are not safe for human consumption.  The article notes that March 23, 2011 hundreds of tons of damaged food stuffs were discovered in Diyala Prvoince.  Alsumaria reported June 30th (2012) that workers of the Ministry of Health had confiscated over 33 tons of harmful food in Kirkuk Province.
In addition to potential problems, there are also current health problems that Iraqis face.  One of the latest is, thus far, unexplained.  A series of people are going blind.  Al Mada reports that the Medical College of the University of Dhi Qar has issued an apology over its failure to participate in the investigation of the recent cases of blindness.  The college states it's unable to participate at this time.  Last week, Dar Addustour reported that six people in Nasiriyah, while undergoing eye exams, were exposed to some form of bacteria that is still unknown at this time but that resulted in their being blinded. The number of people who have been blinded has now risen to 9.

Today the US Government Accountability Office released [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: U.S. Assistance to Iraq's Minority Groups in Response to Congressional Directives."  According to the report, through November 2011, the US taxpayer has footed the bill for $40 million which was supposed to go towards assisting Iraq's minority population.  [The report breaks down the $40 million as follows: "According to the agencies, USAID provided $14.8 million for the 2008 directive, USAID and State provided $10.4 million for the 2008 supplemental directive; and State provided $16.5 million for the 2010 directive."]  Since Iraq's population is estimated by the CIA to be 31 million, the US government could have skipped the minority issue and given a million dollars to every Iraqi.  So the GAO just completed a 12 month audit (June 2011 to July 2012) to see if USAID was living up to the outlines of Congress' 2008 directive?

Are they?

No one knows.  USAID didn't pass the audit.  The report notes:

Our analysis of USAID documents found that USAID could not demonstrate that it met the provisions of the 2008 directive because of three weaknesses. First, although USAID reported that it provided $14.8 million in assistance to minority groups through existing programs to meet the 2008 directive, its documents could link only $3.82 million (26 percent) of that amount to the Ninewa plain region. The documents linked $1.67 million (11 percent) of the assistance to areas outside of the Ninewa plain region. USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail to determine the location of the remaining $9.35 million (63 percent).
Second, USAID documents generally did not show whether the projects included minority groups among the beneficiaries of the assistance and whether $8 million was provided specifically for internally displaced families. According to USAID officials, the agency generally did not track its beneficiaries by religious affiliation. For $14.7 million of the $14.8 million in assistance, USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail for us to determine that Iraqi minority groups were among the beneficiaries of all of the projects. Only 1 of the 155 projects ($66,707 out of $14.8 million) provided sufficient detail in its documents for us to determine that the assistance was directed to internally displaced families; however, the location of that project was outside of the Ninewa plain region. While USAID documents listed $2 million in funding for a microfinance institution, USAID officials were unable to provide detail on whether all of these loans were disbursed in the Ninewa plain region. 
Third, USAID officials and documents did not demonstrate that the agency used unobligated prior year ESF funds to initiate projects in response to the 2008 directive. USAID could document that the agency used unobligated prior year funds for two of the six programs after the date of the 2008 directive. However, according to USAID officials, the agency did not use unobligated prior year funds for the remaining four programs.

When you can't produce documentation to back up your claims, you have failed the audit.

Which is bad news for Iraq's minorities and for US taxpayers. Robert Burns (AP) notes this cost issue from the report, "A contractor was allowed to charge $80 for a pipe fitting that a competitor was selling for $1.41." There was no oversight.  There will be no oversight.  The State Dept will go before the Congress and make statements about their Afghanistan mission that will be similar to the statements they made about the Iraq mission and, unless Congress gets serious about accountability, you will see the exact same waste and fraud.
The State Dept is supposed to provide ongoing oversight of their own personnel. They didn't do that very well and what they found, when they did find something, usually a great deal of time had passed between the crime or violation. Laura Litvan (Bloomberg News) reports, "The agency said work by its investigators and those of other agencies have resulted in 71 convictions and almost $177 million in fines and forfeitures. Kickbacks were the leading type of criminal activity, accounting for 71 percent of indictments, according to the report."

The report notes this background on Iraq:

Iraq is ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse. Ethnically, Arabs comprise about 75 percent of the population of Iraq, with Kurds comprising around 15 percent and other ethnic groups, such as Turkoman and Assyrians, comprising the remaining 10 percent. Religiously, Shi'a and Sunni Muslims make up 97 percent of the population of Iraq, with non-Muslim groups -- such as Baha'i, Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis -- comprising the remaining 3 percent of the population. Some communities may be an ethnic majority but a religious minority (such as Arab Christians), while other communities may be an ethnic minority but a religious majority (such as Shi'a Shabaks). For the purpose of this report, we refer to the following religious and ethnic communities as minority groups: Anglican, Armenian, Assyrian, Baptist, Chaldean, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Presbyterians, Sabean Mandaean, Shabak, Syriac, Turkoman, and Yazidi. 
Since 2003, Iraq's minority groups have experienced religiously and ethnically motivated intimidation, arbitrary detention, killings, abductions, and forced displacements, as well as attacks on holy sites and religious leaders. In August 2007, coordinated truck bombings killed some 400 Yazidis and wounded more than 700. In August 2009, a series of attacks in Ninewa province killed almost 100 and injured more than 400 from the Yazidi, Shabak, and Turkoman communities. In February 2008, a Chaldean archbishop was kidnapped and killed -- the third senior Christian religious figure to be killed in the city of Mosul since 2006. A series of attacks against Christians occurred in 2010, including an attack in October on a Catholic church in Baghdad that left more than 50 dead and 60 wounded. 

You may notice a major minority group not listed above.

Iraq's LGBT community.  They were not excluded from the 2008 supplemental directive and the 2010 directive should have allowed for the LGBT community.

Is the Senate failing (Senate Appropriations Committee) or is USAID?

The 2010 directive specifically was about refugee assistance and that should have covered the LGBT community.  But the US government is not doing anything to help that community.  And they get away with that and with doing nothing to protect Iraqi LGBTs from being hunted and killed in Iraq -- "hunted" is the only term for what has repeatedly taken place -- so at what point does the government get their act together?

Obviously, not any time soon.  Because this failed audit should immediately result in Senate hearings but you won't get that.  The failed audit will be greeted with a yawn as Democrats in the Senate rush to protect the White House.

Thing is, the White House should be able to protect itself.  It's Iraq's LGBT population that needs protection.

While the US does nothing, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports, "The Dutch government has decided to grant aslum to gay Iraqis. Immigration minister Geert Leers says Iraq is no longer safe for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Mr Leers has already announced a temporary halt to the deportation of gay Iraqis last month following an alert from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The ministry warned that it was impossible to be openly gay anywhere in Iraq without being at serious risk.  The Iraqi authorities also fail to take any measure to stop discrimination or attacks on homosexuals."

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