Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Does the beard get itchy?







Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) boils down the big Iraq news out of England down to one quote from the Iraq Inquiry, "The Inquiry has advised the Prime Minister that it will be in a position to being the process of writing to any individuals that may be criticized by the middle of 2013."  James Tapsfield (Independent) points out, "The findings about the run-up to the 2003 invasion and its aftermath had originally been expected by the end of last year. The timing was then put back to this summer."  Of the latest development, James Blitz (Financial Times of London) predicts it's "a development that will trigger anger among MPs at the slow pace of the inquiry." Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) does the math, "So far the Inquiry has cost 6.1 million pounds, and the extra year of information-gathering is expected to cost the public purse around 1.4 million pounds more."  Steve Bell (Guardian) offers a visual take on the news (political cartoon).    Gavin Stamp (BBC News) explains, "The BBC's security correspondent Gordon Corera said there had been an ongoing row between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office over certain documents - particularly notes sent by former prime minister Tony Blair to President Bush and records of their discussions in the run-up to the conflict."  Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) adds, "O'Donnell told Chilcot that releasing Blair's notes would damage Britain's relations with the US and would not be in the public interest. 'We have attached particular importance to protecting the privacy of the channel between the prime minister and president,' he said."  And the end result? The Daily Mail breaks it down: "It means the committee's final judgment will not be delivered until at least a decade after the war."
Yesterday, Nick Hopkins (Guardian) reported, "Speaking for the first time about her experiences, Emma Sky also questioned why no officials on either side of the Atlantic have been held to account for the failures in planning before the invasion."  Who?  Sky was a Spring 2011 Resident Fellow at Harvard and from their bio on her:
Emma Sky left Iraq in September 2010, where she had served for three years as Political Advisor to General Odierno, the US General commanding all US forces in Iraq, had worked directly for General Petraeus on reconciliation and had been the Governorate Coordinator of Kirkuk for the Coalition Provisional Authority back in 2003/2004. In the intervening years, Sky had served in Jerusalem as Political Advisor to General Ward, the US Security Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; and as Advisor to the Italian and British Commanding Generals of the NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2006.
As a British, female, civilian, with a background in international development and strong anti-war credentials, it seemed unlikely that Sky would become advisor and confidante to some of America's finest military leaders. And certainly it has been quite a journey for someone who did not support either the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war.
Nick Hopkins has the first series of extensive interviews with Sky.  From the first one, we'll note Sky saying this:
We'd have power point presentations with pictures of men who've had half their brains blown out. Some things you never forget … the smell of burning bodies. I didn't want to learn to cope with these images. The military talk about KIAs (killed in action). That's how they cope. They don't say, the victims were women and children. There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. The military has a language that is not accidental, it is used to quarantine emotion. Everyday we would hear reports that another 60 or 70 bodies had turned up, heads chopped off or drilled through. It was absolutely horrific. We could tell which groups had been behind the attacks by the way the victims had been killed.
Violence in Iraq continues today.  All Iraq News reports a Kazak roadside bombing has left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead.  Alsumaria notes that, northwest of Baquba, unknown assailants shot dead (with machine guns) a Sahwa who was leaving his home while southwest of Baquba a security checkpoint was bombed, a Tikrit car bombing left five people injured, a 21-year-old man was discovered drowned in Zab River and four of his friends have been arrested in the death, an attack in the Abu Ghraib section of Baghdad left 1 employee of the Ministry of Electricity dead and, Sunday night for the last two, 1 corpse was discovered (25-year-old man, strangleed) in Kirkuk, and 1 Sahwa was shot dead last night in Tarmmiyah near his home.  That's 7 deaths and five injured so far in today's news cycle.  (The Sunday night events were not reported on Sunday.)   Violence continued over the weekend as well. Xinhua reports of Sunday's violence: 1 person shot dead in Baquba, 1 "young girl" shot dead by her Muqdadiyah home, a bombing attack on the Baquba home of a Sawha leader which left fifteen injured and an al-Tahrir grenade attack that left one police officer injured.  AFP notes a Rashidiyah attack which left 9 security forces dead and two more injured and an attack in Hammam al-Alili attack which left four people injured.  Iraq Body Count tabulates178 deaths from violence so far this month.
The oil corporations wanted to wait until there was a permanent government in Iraq so they could have secure contracts. The first permanent post Sudan government was formed in May 2006 under Nouri al-Maliki, and in the months -- even the months before that -- the U.S., Britain, the International Monetary Fund were saying your first priority has to be pass an oil law to give multinationals leading role in Iraq's oil industry again for the first time since the nationalization of the 1970s. And then, this oil law was drafted very quickly after the government was formed. It was drafted in couple of months by August 2006. As well as putting multinationals in the driving seat, its other role was to deprive their contracts of parliamentary scrutiny. According to existing Iraqi law, if the government signs a contract with a company like BP or Exxon to develop an oil field, it has to show it to parliament to get the yes or no or amendments. One of the major functions of the oil law was to repeal that existing legislation and so allow the executive branch, which was of course populated by U.S. allies, to sign contracts without Parliament getting in the way. So, this was the function of the oil law, it was drafted by August 2006. The U.S. hoped it would pass very quickly without anyone knowing about it because the vast majority of Iraqis are very keen that oil stays in the Iraqi hands in the public sector. It didn't turn out that way.
In October 2006, two months after it was drafted, the draft started to leak out. In December 2006, I attended a meeting of Iraq's trade unions at which they decided they were going to fight the law. During the course of 2007, this became a central struggle over Iraq's oil. As you remember, Amy, in January 2007, President Bush announced a surge; he was sending an extra troops into Iraq. Actually that was on half of a two part strategy. The troops were sent to achieve control over Iraq. The second part of the strategy was to use that control, use that influence, to pressure Iraqi politicians to achieve what they call benchmarks. These were marker of political progress. As you reported at the time, the foremost among these was getting an oil law passed. So, throughout 2007, there is constant pressure from the Bush administration on Iraqi politicians. But, at the same time, the trade unions were organizing to try and stop this oil law because they thought it was going to be a disaster for the country. That campaign spread, and because of the strength of Iraqi feeling about it, over the subsequent months, the more it was talked about, the more people opposed it and then the more it was talked about, and opposition to the oil law spread across the country. Civil society groups, both secular and religious, was talked-about in Friday sermons in mosques. And by the summer, this opposition spread into the Iraqi parliament and it became -- politicians saw it as a political threat to their futures to support the oil law, and an opportunity to get one up on their rivals by joining this popular cause. The Americans had set a deadline of September 2007 to pass the oil law or face a series of consequences; cutting off aid, removing military support to the Maliki government etc. The September deadline came and the oil law wasn't passed, and the reason the oil law was not passed was because of this grassroots civil society campaign. Now, to me, that is a very inspiring story. It's why I feel hopeful about the future of Iraq. That operating in the most difficult circumstances imaginable, civil society was able to stop the U.S.A. of achieving its number one objective.
 FYI, that's one interpretation and you can determine it's validity  for yourself.  I would pick apart several minor points, but overall would agree with the above.  With the above.  A few weeks back, Muttitt wrote a piece of nonsense after Brett McGurk was no longer a nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  He wanted to dismiss the affair with a journalist.  What Gina Chon did means she should never report again.  But it was just as wrong for McGurk.  What he did was in violation of US policies.  And he knew it which is why he hid it from Ryan Crocker -- as he admitted in an e-mail to Chon that was published.  For a reporter to sleep with a source is bad enough.  For her to then allow him to vet her copy is even worse.  By the same token, public servants aren't supposed to be secretly influencing their press.  But that's what McGurk did. 
If he'd had an affair with a nurse, doctor, diplomat, etc., that would have been different.  The backpedeling on the Chon-McGurk scandal has really been something to see.  And it's going to be a scandal years from now.  Lot of 'last reporters standing' types are going to continue to churn out their cut and paste 'books' and, within five years, they'll have to include Chon-McGurk.  It's too big of an ethics story to ignore.  And when they do, let's hope that their book tours find many, many people asking, "Why didn't you weigh in in real time?"  And let's hope the answer of "I was carrying water for the administration" is greeted with the proper boos it deserves.
In that idiotic post that Muttitt wrote, he also wanted to say the 'surge' was bad but the 'surge' was good.  Granted, he insisted it wasn't noble but he went with the tired myth that the "surge" "created the conditions for sectarian bloodshed to subside."  If you mean the increase in the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq allowed those Iraqis targeted  who couldn't flee to be hemmed in and hunted, absolutely.  But I don't think that's what he means.  Ethnic cleansing took place.  If you're on the left and you can't push that fact foward, then you need to hop on over to the right because you're not helping anyone on the topic of Iraq.  The "civil war" (ethnic cleansing) killed an unknown number -- still unknown -- and also forced the mass fleeing that created the biggest refugee crisis in the MidEast since 1948. 
Equally true, Muttitt's history ignores the Democrats and the Democrats are very much a part of the benchmarks.  In real time, here, we repeatedly pushed back at the lie that these were Democratic benchmarks.  They were the White House's benchmarks.  But the Democrats wanted some form of benchmarks.  Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray (Washington Post, May 3, 2007) reported, "House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) indicated that the next bill will include benchmarks for Iraq -- such as passing a law to share oil revenue, quelling religious violence and disarming sectarian militias -- to keep its government on course. Failure to meet benchmarks could cost Baghdad billions of dollars in nonmilitary aid, and the administration would be required to report to Congress every 30 days on the military and political situation in Iraq."
Iraq may be of the richest oil regions in the world but all that excess oil has not translated into fewer squabbles than in other regions.  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad-based government is thundering to the Turkish government about a deal that they made with the KRG to export "crude oil and gas to Turkey."  Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh insists that the deal "is illegal and illegitimate" when, in fact, it's not.  It could be.
Those benchmarks we were talking about -- Nouri agreed to pass an oil and gas law.  He never did.  And while the one the US wanted was awful for Iraq, nothing prevented him from proposing something different but he never did.  And what's he proposing now?  Saturday, Al Mada reported more on the Thursday night meeting between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Nouri asked that several bills introduced in previous sessions -- included the oil & gas draft -- be considered this session and Osama agreed.  So Nouri's still pushing that law -- one the Parliament doesn't want or hasn't thus far.  He could push something different but he chooses not to. 

Without a national oil  and gas law, there's nothing preventing the KRG from making deals on the oil in their semi-autonomous region.  Maybe if Nouri had gotten off his lazy ass and did what he was supposed to in 2007, he'd have a valid complaint today.  All the lethargic tend to do is complain -- at that Nouri excels. 

Raheem Salman, Sylvia Westall and Stephen Powell (Reuters) add that Ali al-Dabbagh threatened that the deal could harm Baghdad's relationship with Ankara.  And all along, we all thought the biggest harm to the relationship between Baghdad and Anakra was Nouri's big mouth.  KUNA reports the response from Turkey's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal, "The conflict is between the government in Baghdad and the Kurdish administration and Turkey has no role in it."

The Journal of Turkish Weekly quotes an unnamed Turkish official stating, "If there was a legal problem, we would not start exporting."  The journal notes that the back-and-forth is "the latest sign of cooling ties between Ankara and Baghdad, as well as between Baghdad and Arbil."  The Journal of Turkish Weekly also notes, "Turkey said on July 13 that it had begun importing 5 to 10 road tankers of crude oil a day from the northern region of Iraq and the volume could rise to 100-200 tankers per day."
 There's still no heads to the security ministries.  Nouri's failed to nominate them.  He was supposed to have done that by the end of 2010.  2012 is over half-way over and still no heads to the security ministries.  In the most recent development on that front, Al Mada notes whispers that Nouri's State of Law is stating that if members of Iraqiya want to be nominated to the security ministries then they need to withdraw from Iraqiya first. As violence has increased, Nouri's done nothing.


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