Friday, November 30, 2012

He's on fire






Today Martin Kobler addressed the United Nations Security Council in New York.  Kobler is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq and heads United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  As usual when we note the report on Iraq to the Security Council, we do it in two snapshots.  It was a presentation that lasted over 20 minutes.  It is important enough -- how the UN officially views Iraq for public consumption -- to be included in full.  So we spread it out over two snapshots.
Martin Kobler:  Mr. President, as 2012 draws to a close, it is pertinent to take stock of progress Iraq has made during the last twelve months.  During that time, Iraq has made committed efforts to enforce law and order following the withdrawal of United States forces.  Reclaiming its rightful place at the diplomatic table, it successfully hosted the 23rd Arab Summit in Baghdad in April, and, in May, it hosted talks between Iran and the permanent members of the [Security] Council plus Germany.  In terms of strengthening state institutions, the Human Rights Commission was established in April  and a new board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission was elected in September.   The latter resulted in an agreement on the date for government council elections in April next year.  This progress, however, is in danger by two factors.  First, the stalemate between Iraq's political leaders and, second, developments in the region.  Mr. President, I regret to report to the Council that estranged relations between Iraq's political leaders have endured throughout the year.   One manifestation of this is the Arab-Kurdish rift.  The lack of trust stems from a number of pending issues of contention, including power-sharing, security and tense relations between the central government and the region of Kurdistan.  The resulting political deadlock is preventing the progress and reform necessary to consolidate Iraq's transition.  Attempts to defuse the stalemate have most recently focused on a package of political reforms which appears stalled.  The government of Iraq's decision to establish the Tigris Command Operations Command responsible for overall security in Kirkuk, Salahuddin and the Diyala Govern-ates has been highly criticized by members of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  A military stand-off ensued, incorporating the armed forces of the respective governments.  The militarization of the situation has resulted in the regrettable death of one civilian.  I should like to take this opportunity to call on the parties to exercise all due restraint at this time of increased tensions.  I count on the leadership of the politicians of Iraq to resolve their differences through political dialog in accordance with the Constitution.  In that regard, I welcome the recent efforts of Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and I also welcome the convening of a meeting between the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga at the technical level earlier this week in Baghdad.  It is a step in the right direction.  And I do encourage both sides to keep the door open -- of dialog open -- and implement the understandings reached.  UNAMI stands ready to implement any possible agreement reached that would de-escalate the situation and promote confidence among the various communities.  Over the past few days, Mr. President, dozens of Iraqi security personnel and civilians -- including worshipers -- have been killed and many other dozens injured in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Karbala and Falluja.  Extremists use the political differences of the leaders to ignite either sectarian or ethnic violence and tensions in Iraq.  Immediate resolutions and compromise by all political leaders should be the response to these attempts.  The tense political standoff is thus testing Iraq's internal fault-lines.  August and September were the deadliest months in the last two years.  A particular atrocious series of attacks on October 27th targeted pilgrims during holy Eid al-Adha observance.  Left unaddressed, the political impasse will leave Iraq vulnerable to the sectarists of Iraq's ability, mainly from the spillover of violence in the wider region.  Mr. President, Iraq finds itself in an increasingly unstable region environment generated by the Syrian Civil War.  The Syrian conflict has exposed a complex web on interconnected and conflicting interests that threatens to engulf the region in violent conflict.  With no immediate solution to the crisis in sight, there are real risks of spillover, violence and destabilization.  At the domestic level, the conflict across Iraq's borders has had a significant humanitarian impact on Iraq.  The crisis also impacts on Iraq's relations with her neighbors. Iraq's relationship with Turkey has also grown increasingly tense in recent months with an escalation in the rhetoric exchanged on both sides. The divergent positions between Iraq and other states in the region on how to address the Syrian crisis have also further strained their relations.  Within this challenging context, however, it is possible to identify opportunities for UNAMI to continue to assist Iraq's transition process. Indeed, not withstanding the lack of progress between Iraq's political leaders, in resolving their differences, Iraq's expectations on UNAMI continues to grow.  UNAMI's assistance, pursuant to its Council mandate, is focusing on two priority tracks:  First, advancing national reconciliation and dialog and, second, tackling regional issues.  Since my last briefing to the Council, UNAMI has continued to encourage political leaders to engage in inclusive dialog to resolve their differences in the spirit and framework of the Constitution.  I've continued to conduct frequent visits to Erbil and Sulamaniyah to promote such a dialog.  I've also conducted intensive discussions both in Baghdad and in Kirkuk focusing on the holding of the long overdue governate council elections in Kirkuk.  UNAMI's support to the Council of Representatives on the basis of sustained facilitation and technical advice contributed to the selection of the IHEC's new board of commissioners in September -- a proficient and a genuinely and truly independent IHEC board is essential at this juncture as Iraq prepares for nationwide governor council elections on 20th of April next year and legislative elections in 2014.
Factually, we should note that the Arab League Summit was March 29th and not in April. and that it was a failure as judged by who attended. From that day's snapshot:
Who were the notable no-shows?  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report that the no-shows included rulers from "Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most other Gulf countries, as well as Morocco and Jordan -- all of them headed by Sunni monarchs who deeply distrust the close ties between Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and their top regional rival, Iran." The Belfast Telegraph notes, "The only ruler from the Gulf to attend was the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah."
With regards to IHEC . . .
I like Chris Hedges.  He is someone who tries to tell his truth and I'm always willing to consider what he says.  So let's drop back to election night in the US.  There's Hedges on a really bad program that he really shouldn't have been on but was.  Ava and I debated whether or not to cover this in real time but decided not to.  Hedges offered his belief that the world itself was in danger and that the world was being destroyed, to the point that it would be uninhabitable.  He said that in the face of that, other issues were less important.  Other issues identified by him?  He immediately went to women's rights.  Isn't that the knee jerk for lefty males every time?
And Ava and I were watching and giving him consideration because it is true that planet going down in flames might trump other things.  However, Chris Hedges then remained silent as a dumb ass with a stupid organization then piped in that he agreed and, by the way, what was really important and what needed to be focused on was all the enthusiasm it was building among people of color.
We waited for Hedges to object.
There was no objection and we felt Punk'd.
You want us to set aside women's rights -- the basic rights of over half the planet and a group that represents every race and ethnicity known to humankind -- and yet you're okay with some crap about the 'importance' of happy thoughts  for a certain segment of people?  That trumps whether or not human life can be supported by the planet?  An abstract feeling trumps the basic legal rights of over half the population?
Does Heges believe that happy thoughts trump the survival of the planet?  I doubt it.  But he wasn't willing to object.  These conversations happen over and over.  In the US, it's usually a bunch of male Democrats saying the party could get more votes if they dropped their support for abortion.  (That would of course drive women voters away but the 'brains' making that proposal don't consider women 'real voters' anyway.)  On the left (I'll let the right talk about itself), in the abstract, the disabled and challenged are treated with respect, men of color are treated with respect, men of certain ethnicites are treated with respect, all these groupings get respect and no one's asking that their rights be ignored or chipped away at.  But time and again, women -- who don't even make up half the Senate in our 'advanced' United States -- are asked to sacrifice.  It's past time for the left to get honest about what it really thinks about women and how little women are valued.  These continual attacks on women, these continual slights would not repeatedly happen were women not so devalued.  And hats off to Ruth for her great catch last night where she noted George Mitrovich reduced a strong Senator to arm candy because of his own sexism and that he did so while trying to pretend he's appalled by sexism.  to decry sexism. Let's also note that his crap appeared at The Huffington Post.  Time and again, certain women sell all women out so that they can advance on their own.  (The term is "queen bee.")
And time and again, women have to sacrifice and we're so damn sick of it.  Women's rights, their basic rights, Hedges was willing to toss aside for survival of the planet but not a feel-good mood about an election.  That was important and valid.  But the right to self-determination, to control one's own body, to own property, etc, these were unimportant.
What does this have to do with the above?
Kobler's bragging and boasting about IHEC -- Independent High Electoral Commission -- was embarrassing.
There is only one woman on the Commission.  The law requires women to be a third of the Commission.  The woman was added days after the others and probably wouldn't have been if even the Iraqi judges weren't publicly calling out the lack of women on the Commission.
Time and again, women are made to wait.  We're made to wait by Chris Hedges because it's all about survival, we're made to wait some other reason at some other time.  If Iraq, as it stands currently, cannot follow the law and cannot appoint three women to IHEC (appoint, not elect, what a joke that was from Kobler), then exactly when the hell will the law be followed?
Nouri al-Maliki has one female minister in his Cabinet.  All the rest -- even the so-called 'acting' ministers -- are men.  Women continues to be eliminated from positions of power, women continue to not be seated at the table.  Iraq's female politicians -- especially female members of Iraqiya -- loudly and publicly decried the IHEC board for not having the three women required by law.  But Kobler can't even note that.  Kobler happy stamps it and we're all supposed to accept that?
At what point is Nouri's government held accountable for its failure to follow the law?  At what point does the United Nations finally find the guts to call out the disenfranchisement of women?  Oh, yes, women were mentioned -- much later in the speech -- and we'll get to that tomorrow.  As their own little island.  As though they're not also Iraqis, as though Iraq is not also their country, as though they don't have a right to participate and as though 'success' in Iraq can be judged without considering what's happened to Iraq women.
How very sad.
Today Iraq was slammed with multiple bombings and shootings leading to dub it a "bloodbath."  Margaret Gtiffis ( counts 54 dead and 237 injured in the day's cycle of violence.  RT notes, "Two roadside bombs in the city of Hilla blew up a group of Shiite pilgrims, leaving at least 26 people dead and several dozen wounded. The bombs struck a commercial area of the city during a busy period.  Another attack happened in the shrine city of Karbala, 90 kilometers to the south of Baghdad. A car bomb killed 6 civilians and wounded 20, some of them police officers.­"  And RT has three Reuters photos of the aftermath of those two bombings.  Today's violence continues the week's trend of attacks.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "Attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday left at least 38 people dead and more than 130 wounded."

In Hilla, AFP notes, "Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area of the blasts and set up checkpoints in the city to search cars, an AFP correspondent said, adding that shops near the site were shuttered after the attack."  Ali al-Rubaie (Reuters) quotes teacher Ihsan al-Khalidi explaining, "We started to stop civilian cars asking them to take the wounded to hospital since there were not enough ambulances to transfer them."   Sinan Salaheddin (AP) provides these details on the Hilla aftermath, "Twisted and charred remains of vehicles were seen outside damaged shops as shop owners collected their strewn merchandise from the bloodstained pavement, littered with debris."  On the Karbala attack, Al Jazeera explains,  "In the shrine city of Karbala, a car bomb killed four and left another 16 people wounded. The bomber parked the vehicle near the entrance of the Imam Abbas shrine. Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghad, said the holy site made for a 'very daring' attack in Karbala."  Xinhua adds, "Iraqi security forces blocked the roads to central Karbala which leads to the shrine of Imam Hussein, one of the 12 most Shiite revered Imams."   Al Bawaba notes that Shi'ites were the targets in the attacks on those two cities while other bombs today were targeting security forces.

Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"
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