Saturday, April 07, 2012

Look at the bitchy girl Barack Obama







In DC yesterday, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani was asked if Nouri's authoritarian ways were reason to be concerned as he consolidated complete control of the security forces and Barzani responded, "The new Iraqi army needs to be built on the basis of being the army of the country, not an army of an individual. So to be an army that belongs to the people of Iraq and the state of Iraq in accordance with the Constitution and the laws. And also the Iraqi army should not interfere in the internal political differences of the country. "

ABC News notes, "Barzani, who was in Washington to meet with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, said that unless Baghdad resolves simmering disputes involving its ethnic and political factions, the situation would be ripe for an autocratic government." Hurriyet Daily News adds, "The Obama administration has pressed Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani to re-engage with Baghdad amid high tension over the status of fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Al-Hashemi arrived in Saudi Arabia on April 4 and accused his country's prime minister of waging a systematic campaign against Sunni Arabs in Iraq." Today's Zaman reports:
"Barzani visited the US to complain about Maliki," said one diplomat on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. Barzani met with President Barack Obama and with Vice President Joe Biden separately on Wednesday, and told them that Maliki is consolidating power in a dictatorial way. He said Obama and Biden reassured him that the United States would remain committed to cooperation with Kurdistan and committed to helping Iraq solve its serious internal political problems.
[. . .]
Bilgay Duman, an expert on Iraq from the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Research (ORSAM), stated that Barzani's reception by high-ranking US officials should be perceived as a warning to Maliki to abandon his sectarian-based policies in the country. Iraq is suffering from severe instabilities due to daily clashes between Shiite and Sunni groups, which escalated after US troops withdrew from the country in December. The KRG is striving to maintain balanced ties with Iraq's rival Sunni and Shiite groups as they vie for influence in the country following the US withdrawal. Turkey is very critical of Maliki, saying the Shiite prime minister is using the arrest warrant against Hashemi to sideline Sunni political groups in the administration and hoard power for dominance of the Shiite bloc.
"The stance of Arbil and Ankara against Baghdad are very much in line, due to the fact that both are disturbed by Maliki's dictatorial government," affirmed Ali Semin, a Middle East expert from the Turkish think-tank -- the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BÄ°LGESAM). He added that the US is now trying to forge ties between KRG and Turkey in order to secure the unity of Iraq.
So that we're all on the same page, the 2005 Iraqi Constitution includes Article 140:
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Second: The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
The census and referendum are to take place no later than December 31, 2007. Nouri al-Maliki becomes prime minister in 2006. He took an oath to the Iraqi Constitution. He never ordered the census or the referendum before the end of 2007. His first term ended with him unable/unwilling to abide by the Constitution he took an oath to uphold. There has been no census or referendum. He is and remains in violation of the Constitution.
With that understanding, we'll now note what KRG President Massoud Barzani declared yesterday in DC at the forum put on by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the issue of Kirkuk and Article 140.
President Massoud Barzani: Article 140 is a Constitutional Article and it needed a lot of discussions and talks until we have reached this. This is the best way to solve this problem. It's regarding solving the problems of the territories that have been detached from Kurdistan Region. In fact, I do not want to call it "disputed areas" because we do not have any disputes on that. For us it is very clear for that. But we have shown upmost flexibility in order to find the legal and the Constitutional solution for this problem. And in order to pave the way for the return of these areas, according to the Constitution and the basis of law and legally to the Kurdistan Region. And we have found out that there is an effort to evade and run away from this responsibility for the last six years in implementing this Constitutional Article. And I want to assure you that implementing this Constitutional Article is in the interest of Iraq and in the interest of stability. There are people who think that time would make us forget about this. They are wrong. Time would not help forget or solve the problem. These are Kurdish countries, part of Kurdistan and it has to return to Kurdistan based on the mechanism that has been stipulated in the Constitution. And at the end of the day, as the Constitution stipulates, it's going back to what the people want to determine. So there is a referendum for the people of these areas and they will decide. If the people decide to joing Kurdistan Region, they're welcome and if the people decide not to, at that time, we will look at any responsibility on our shoulders so people would be held responsible for their own decisions.
Barzani is not calling for any additional steps to resolving the issue of Kirkuk, he is only asking that what was already agreed to and written into the Constitution be followed. In addition to taking questions, Barzani delivered a speech at the forum and you can see yesterday's snapshot for that.
President Massoud Barzani: As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement. In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier. In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items. First, to put in place a general partnership in the country. Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga. These were all part of the package that had been there. Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today. Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.
Again, the political crisis did not start over the accusations Nouri hurled at Saleq al-Mutlaq and Tareq al-Hashemi. The failure to follow the Erbil Agreement -- the document ending Political Stalemate I -- is what caused the current crisis -- a crisis that has now lasted over a year and four months.
Turning to the United States, yesterday Caitlin Duffy (Forbes) reported of Home Depot, "The home improvement retailer's shares are once again hitting fresh multi-year highs, with the stock up 1.4% on the day at $50.56 as of 12:35 p.m. in New York trade. Call activity on Home Depot suggests at least one strategist is gearing up for the bullish momentum to continue in the near term." But how long will the outlook remain bullish as word leaks out about a new lawsuit? The US Justice Dept issued the following yesterday:

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department announced today the filing of a complaint in U.S. District Court in Arizona against Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. for violating the employment rights of California Army National Guard soldier Brian Bailey under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

The department's complaint alleges that Home Depot willfully violated USERRA by terminating Bailey's employment because of his military service obligations. Bailey, an Iraq War veteran, worked at a Home Depot store in Flagstaff, Ariz., as a department supervisor while at the same time serving in the California Army National Guard. Throughout his employment with Home Depot, Bailey took periodic leave from work to fulfill his military obligations with the National Guard. According to the Justice Department's complaint, Bailey was removed from his position as a department supervisor after Home Depot management officials at the Flagstaff store openly expressed their displeasure with his periodic absences from work due to his military obligations and further indicated their desire to remove him from his position because of those absences.

Bailey initially filed a complaint with the Labor Department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service, which investigated the matter, determined that the complaint had merit and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division subsequently decided to represent Bailey in this matter and filed this lawsuit on his behalf.

USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against National Guard soldiers, such as Bailey, with respect to employment opportunities based on their past, current or future uniformed service obligations. Under USERRA, it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee because he has to miss work due to military obligations.

Among other things, the suit seeks compensation for Bailey's lost wages and benefits, liquidated damages and reinstatement of Bailey's employment with Home Depot.

"The men and women who wear our nation's uniform need to know that they do not have to sacrifice their job at home in order to serve our country," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division is committed to aggressive enforcement of USERRA to protect the rights of those who, through their bravery and sacrifice, secure the rights of all Americans."

"The National Guard is composed primarily of civilian men and women who serve their country, state and community on a part-time basis," said Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel. "National Guard members, and their employers, should know that we will employ all of USERRA's tools to protect the employment rights of those in uniform while they sacrifice time away from their families and jobs for training and active duty."

This case is being handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona.

Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department websites and, as well as the Labor Department website
Civil Rights Division
Staying with the issue of the US military, on Saturday, David Brown (Washington Post) reported on studies -- apparent Pentagon studies -- that researched the signature wounds of the modern wars and demonstrated a weak link between TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post-Trumatic Stress Disorder) and "outright violent behavior." As we have noted for years here, those suffering from PTSD are far more likely to self-harm than to harm others. That was true not only in the early research on PTSD during these wars but true as well when you go back to studies on similar conditions such as what was once known as "shell shocked." In all of that, self-harm could and sometimes did include self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs. What's distrubing about the Post report is "outright violent behavior." Some might agree (some might not) with the conclusion that a drunken brawl with a friend isn't "outright violent behavior." I would hope at this late date, in the US, no one would conclude -- as the Pentagon apparently has -- that domestic abuse is not "outright violent behavior." Domestic abuse is a crime. it is a serious crime. The military can do whatever they want with drunken brawls among friends, I don't really care (some people may), but when you classify domestic abuse as something other than "outright violent behavior," we do have a problem -- a very serious problem. Domestic violence is a crime, it is violence and I think a strong argument can be made that it's a form of terrorism. As Maureen Orth detailed in Vanity Fair nearly nine years ago, there are life and death consequences. The US military has a long history of looking the other way when a woman is assaulted or raped. Supposedly that's changed. We heard it over and over, for example, from then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when he would appear before the Congress. But if the climate actually had changed, beating a woman would not be classified as something less than "outright violent behavior."
In related news on this still-existing culture of denial within the higher ranks of the US military, Sandra S. Park (ACLU Blog of Rights) noted the following disturbing event on Monday:
While it is estimated that over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010, a rate far higher than among civilians, the government has failed systematically to investigate complaints, appropriately punish perpetrators, and treat trauma and other health conditions suffered by survivors. The profound personal and social consequences that arise from the government's systemic failures are powerfully profiled in the new film, The Invisible War. Turning a blind eye to these crimes has allowed them to continue, imperiling the lives of victims and degrading their service.
On Friday, a federal district court judge cited yet another example of the military's unwillingness to acknowledge sexual violence within its ranks. In response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) and the ACLU seeking records from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs regarding their response to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence in the military, the Army Crime Records Center claimed it couldn't provide records about "sexual assault" because its records are organized by specific criminal offenses such as "rape," not under the general heading of "sexual assault."
"'Sexual assault' is easily read as encompassing rape and other non-consensual sexual crimes defined in the Army's offense codes," the judge found. "The fact that the agency was unwilling to read the Plaintiffs' request liberally to include such terms seems to be almost willful blindness."
The judge further ruled that several other sections of the Departments failed to adequately respond to our requests and ordered the government to fulfill its obligations under FOIA. We will continue to press the government for the information we need to truly understand, address, and end the epidemic of sexual violence in the military.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The GOP's secret weapon: Debbie Wasserman Schultz







Oil, if Iraq didn't have it, the illegal war might never have started in 2003. Oil continues to be a source of violence and conflict within Iraq. For example, an apparent bombing has stopped a pipeline. Ali Berat Meric and Emre Peker (Bloomberg News) report that the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline is not transporting oil to Turkey currently after a bombing took place within Turkey damaging the pipeline. Orhan Coskun (Reuters) reports, "There were three almost simultaneous explosions at separate points along the pipeline in the Idil area, a Turkish security official said."
There's violence and the conflict? At this point, that's primarily between the central-government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Nouri took the ongoing disagreement to a new level this week when his government accused the Kurds of selling blackmarket oil to the government of Iran. Alsumaria TV reported the Kurdistan Alliance denied the charges and accused Deputy Prime Minister of Energy Hussein al-Shahristani of declaring war on them and they are calling for him to apologize to the Kurdish people for his accusations. As RT noted, the Kurds were already unhappy with Baghdad over a $1.5 billion debt that they say the centeral-government owes them and that the refusal to pay led the KRG to halt their Baghdad oil deliveries at the start of the week after ten consecutive months of no payment from Baghdad. Alsumaria quotes KRG Natrual Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami telling the press, "Kurdistan Government will not resume oil export before it reaches a comprehensive agreement with Baghdad about payment methods and dues to oil companies in the Region. Kurdistan Government will only resume oil export when it reaches a general agreement with Baghdad." The editorial board of The National offered:
This is, above all else, a political disagreement. And it's a disagreement that is harming both sides. Kurdish leaders are asserting their autonomy that, in terms of state institutions and security forces, is already a fact on the ground. A charitable view is that Mr Al Maliki is trying to unify a national energy sector; an alternative explanation is that Baghdad is trying to monopolise national resources for the exclusive benefit of his constituency.
The casualty in this case is the national economic project. After more than three years of haggling, Iraq's oil law seems no closer to being passed, which in turn harms foreign investment in the sector. Baghdad objects to the deals the KRG has struck independently with oil majors; on Monday, Exxon Mobil confirmed that it had frozen an exploration contract in the Kurdish region because of pressure from Baghdad.
ExxonMobil may or may not have confirmed that. Reuters notes today, "The central government now says that Exxon has written to it twice since early March to say that its deals with the Kurds have been suspended. The Kurds say Exxon has not halted work in Kurdistan and have challenged Baghdad to publish Exxon's letters." And the battle over ExxonMobil is being watched as the Reuters points out:
Oil majors are now waiting on the sidelines, watching the outcome of Exxon's balancing act between Baghdad and Arbil, the northern capital. France's Total is the latest company to provoke Baghdad's ire by acknowledging interest in Kurdistan. "What companies are trying to do is get to the point where they are investing in the north and the south," said one industry source working in Iraq. "But at the moment they cannot do that. And that is what you have to build in when you decide whether to move in or not. You balance the risks."
So the status of the ExxonMobil deal with the KRG is not known at this point. What is known?
Relations between Erbil and Baghdad were strained even before the controversy over the Exxon Mobil deal flared anew. Kurdish President Massoud Barzani delivered a stinging speech on Thursday in Washington that ripped into Maliki as an autocrat.
"Iraq is facing a serious crisis," he said. He insisted that oil deals struck in the autonomous Kurdish region were legal.
KRG President Massoud Barzani spoke in DC this afternoon at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy event. His speech was delivered in Kurdish and translated.
KRG President Massoud Barzani: My visit to Washington came at the invitation of the US government in order to talk about the situation in Iraq, in the wider region, and also the situation between Kurdistan region and Iraq in detail. Yesterday, during our meetings with the President, the Vice President and other officials of the US administration, we have talked about all of these issues in detail. I'm sure many of you know that the people of Kurdistan have sacrificed a great deal and have shed a lot of blood for the sake of building a federal, democratic and pluralistic Iraq. But you always are mindful of the fact that, had it not been for the US support and assistance, without the sacrifices of men and women in uniform, the sacrifices that have been made, this objective would not have been achieved and the regime would not have been toppled. So we got a golden opportunity to build a new Iraq, an Iraq that's federa, democratic, l pluralistic, an Iraq that's new and better. And also to be clear that what's the composition of this new Iraq? It's three main pillars that constitute Iraq. It's the Kurds, the Shias and the Sunnis. Having said that, we have to be mindful of the fact that we have other national minorities living with us, that they have to be respected, they have to be equally treated. We've got the Turkomen, the Chaldean Assyrian, the Syriac and also an Albanian minority. But we also have to realize that in terms of nationalities, Iraq is made up of two main nationalities: Arabs and Kurds. I can say that in Kurdistan we have an experience that to a great extent has been a successful one. I cannot claim that this is an ideal experience without any flaws or shortcomings. But I can say for sure that the security stability situation is very good. The economy and social activies are good. Socially we have made a lot of progress. We in the region have adopted a tolerant policy. We have not resorted to revenge and retaliation. We have opened a new page and therefore we have been able to provide a safe and secure environment and to protect our people. And for that, we are grateful to the support and assistance that we have received from own own people but also thanks to the dedication of the security and law enforcement people. And the safe and secure environment has been the reason for inviting and attracting foreign companies and here lately American oil companies have also started to come to the region and start their investment and other activities. I will give you some brief examples to show you the difference that we have made and theprogress that we have made. After the fall of the regime in 2003, the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] per capita for individuals in the Kurdistan region was $275 per annum and now it exceeds $5,000. And also the electricity rate was 57%. It has reduced or dropped to 16%. Regarding other services and mainly electricity, we've been able to improve that sector. I can say that we're almost able to provide electritiy to all the main cities and townships and rural areas. In certain areas, we have got four hours of electricity. What has come to the Iraqi Treasury from 2003 until now, it has exceeded half-of-a-trillion [dollars]. You can check that information to see what kind of electricity has been provided in other parts of Iraq which does not exceed three to four hours. There are one million people under arms [security forces] but still terrorism and the threat of terrorism continues. Iraq is facing a serious crisis today. Yesterday, we have discussed that very frankly with the President, the Vice President and it's going to one-man rule. It's going towards control of all the establishments of state. So we have got a situation or we ended up having a situation in Baghdad where one individual is the Prime Minister and at the same time he's the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he's the Minister of Defense, he's the Minister of the Interior and the Chief of the Intelligence and lately he has sent a correspondence to the president of the Central Bank in Iraq that that establishment would also come under the Prime Minister. Where in the world would you find such an example? We as the people of Kurdistan, we believe that this government has come to be as a result of the blood that we have shed and as a result of the sacrifices that we have contributed. We are eager to see the situation reformed. Therefore, we will not leave Baghdad for others. So, therefore, we see the situation in Iraq that it requires to be ruled in partnership -- for that power-sharing and partnership to consist of the Kurds and the Arabs -- both the Shia Arabs and the Sunni Arabs. Of course, we have to be mindful of the fact that the Iraqis themselves have to find solutions for the problems. When they try to find solutions for themselves, then their friends in the international community can help. But if they wait for others, for the outsiders to help solve their problems, they will wait forever and they will not see solutions. They have to do it themselves. It's very natural to have relations with the neighboring countries and also with the international community. But also specifically with the neighboring countries in order to exchange views and to exchange ideas about this but not to give them an opportunity to interfere int he internal affairs of Iraq or for them to come to solve the problems or for them to act on behalf of the Iraqi people. The Iraqis have to do it themselves. But my visit has nothing to do with the other visit it was separate.
The speech was a declaration of the need for the Kurdish leaders to do what is best for the Kurdish people. This was a message to Baghdad and Nouri, of course, but it was also a message to the White House and making clear that pretty words and empty promises will not be accepted by the Kurdish politicians any longer because the Kurdish people deserve more than that.
This was clear in the question and answers that followed. For example, in reply to questions from Barbara Slavin about the oil issue and whether the KRG might move from semi-autonomous to autonomous (breaking completely with Baghdad), Barzani replied through his translator:
We have been waiting for the last six years for promises that were not delivered, for agreements that were not honored. We have waited and everytime they give us an excuse. Once they say that there are elections in Baghdad, another time, elections in the region. Once there is election in the United States. Then there is the Arab Summit, etc., etc. We have found out that we have passed six years waiting for these promises to be delivered. We cannot anymore wait for unfulfilled promises and undelivered promises. There has to be a specific and determined timeline for this to be delivered. We got tired of this and we are fed up with that. Therefore, what we will do is that we will work on the preferred option to work with the other Iraqi groups to find a solution. If not, then we go back to our people and to put all of these realities inf ront of our people for the people to be free to make their own decision. As far as the issue of the oil is concerned, in 2007, when we were working and we reached an agreement on a draft oil hydrocarbons law, we both agreed that if that law did not pass in the Parliament until May that same year that both sides -- the KRG and the federal government -- are free to continuing signing contracts with international oil companies. Therefore, whatever we have done in the region, we have not violated the Constitution. We have acted legally and Constitutionally within the framework of the Constitution.
Did you pay attention to all the excuses that have been given to the Kurds to wait? Including a US election? This speech was a declaration of independence on the part of the Kurds. The basic premise Massoud Barzani has outlined is: We will not be bound by empty words no matter who speaks them.
Many of the remarks were also directed at Nouri al-Maliki. Today was the day Nouri was supposed to demonstrate what a leader he was. The political crisis would finally be addressed via a national conference with the various political blocs participating. News of the conference's death emerged yesterday.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Maybe he needs a new hair cut?






This week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), features coverage of the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut where both hosts were among the speakers. Another speaker was International Action Center's Sara Flounders.
Sara Flounders: In fighting today's wars, it's more important step is building a movement that acknowledges the relationship between the war at home and the war abroad. It's a big challenge. How dare any US official lecture any, any other country on prisoners, human rights or on democracy. What hypocrisy. This -- this country has the largest prison population in the world and that's not counting the secret prisons, the secret renditions, the secret kidnappings, the drones, it's not counting immigration detention. We need to consciously step back from ever being an echo of the State Dept and their arrogant charges and target other countries. US wars, they rely on an arrogance of empire. Can they once again get a population to believe that humanitarian war is possible? That they're bringing democracy, advancement for women, an end to sectarian violence. We need an anti-war movement that is really, consciously against all US wars. That's simple. And against all the forms that US wars take today. Bombs and occupations, yes. But sanctions, sabotage, drones, media onslaughts, demonetization of leaders, racist stereotypings of whole peoples. We represent here many different political currents and traditions here in this room. And we can't and won't agree on many issues. So how do we proceed how do we stay united and keep our focus? If we focus on US imperialism, on its crimes, whatever our views on many social issues, we will be together because we need an antiwar movement that opposes US war. Consider the US-NATO war against Libya. Eleven countries simultaneously dropping bombs on a country with no means of defense all claiming they were on a humanitarian mission while they target the electric grid, the water supply, civilian communications. Now let's talk about WikiLeaks' latest Stratfor revelation -- and, by the way, Free Bradley Manning -- the latest WikiLeaks' document in the Stratfor files, they describe in some detail the White House meeting that reviews British and French and US Special Forces, units on the ground in Syria, planting bombs, running guns, training and seeking total destabilization. Now that's the truth. UNAC today stands for self-determination and demands that all US troops, drones and sabotage teams out. Unconditional US withdrawal. That's a big contribution, a big step. We can't be making demands on any country at the very time it's under attack, at the time that the bombs are falling, at the time the sanctions are strangling, Today, in the last weeks, we see the most cynical and arrogant approach. Kony. Kony 2012. Right? Invisible children? And what is it? Young people cheering AFRICOM, US troops in Africa? That's the way they sell US wars today. There's a rapidly expanding US military presence in Africa. It includes troops in Uganda, a military mission in Mali, drone bombings in Somalia, political intervention in Sudan, all under the umbrella of AFRICOM. It's blame the victim. It saturates the media and it saturates the mass movement. We need to stand up to it. And a just on a personal level and to give a comparison, there was a time when if a woman was attacked, sexually assaulted, what was the defense of the attacker, of the courts and of the police? It was to ask, what was she wearing? Doing? Where was she walking? That she invited or deserved this attack. And one gain of the women's movement was to say: It's irrelevant. That is irrelevant. That's the way we have to see US wars. That is the way. Let's talk about Syria and Libya and Iraq and Iran and Venezuela and Bolivia and Sudan. US imperialism wants to destroy each of these countries. Not because they've made any compromises to survive -- and they have. But because they've nationalized the source of wealth, because it's US domination, corporate domination, that they want. This empire has problems they can no longer solve. Capitalism can no longer bail itself out with war. The capitalist crisis is global. It's unsolvable So our unity is more important. The United National Anti-War Coalition, UNAC, was founded on the principle of self-determination for all the oppressed nations and people. What do we want to demand that they abolish NATO, we want to talk about march on the RNC and the DNC. Abolish NATO and end the wars abroad.
Yesterday, we noted Margaret Kimberley's speech to the conference. Of the conference, Glen Ford explains:

I was privileged to present the coordinating committee's draft of the Action Plan to UNAC's national conference in Stamford, Connecticut, this past weekend. "This action plan does not just target some U.S. wars," said the committee's statement. "It does not target the currently unpopular wars. It does not shy away from condemning wars that remain acceptable to half the population because the real reasons for them are obscured in the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention. It does not advocate that we avoid putting U.S. boots on the ground by mounting embargoes that bring economic devastation on the peoples of Iran. It does not condone war by other, more sanitized, means. It does not cheer on wars that minimize U.S. combat deaths by the use of robotic unmanned planes or the highly trained murder squads of the Joint Special Operations Command. It does not see war by mercenary as somehow less threatening to the peoples of the world and the U.S. than war by economic draft. It does not give credit to Washington for removing brigades from one country in order to deploy them in the next."

The document demands an end to "all wars, interventions, targeted assassinations and occupations" and U.S. withdrawal from "NATO and all other interventionist military alliances."

UNAC's reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world's peoples have the inherent right to self-determination, to pursue their own destinies -- the foundation of relations among peoples, enshrined in international law but daily violated by the United States.

Moving from wars to one, Iraq. We're going to do a little exercise first. It's 2016. I decide to throw a party and send out invites to Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor and Al Jazeera), Sam Dagher and Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal), Liz Sly, Alice Fordham, Ernesto Londono and Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post), Jack Healy, Tim Arango. Alissa J. Rubin, Damien Cave, Sabrina Tavernise and Stephen Farrell (New York Times), Nancy A. Youssef, Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers), Deborah Haynes and James Hider (Times of London), Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Quil Lawrence and Kelly McEvers (NPR), Borzou Daragahi, Ned Parker, Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times), Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Hamza Hendawi and Brett Barrouquere (Associated Press), Jomana Karadsheh, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Arwa Damon (CNN), Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Anna Badkhen (San Francisco Chronicle, among others).
That's 34 people. I need a head count so I'm asking everyone to RSVP. It's a week away and only 10 have. That's not a really good sign. 12 show up (11 invited, one not invited). Tim Arango insists he Tweeted his RSVP and since I'm not on Twitter, I missed it. 5 show up just to be kind (Damien Cave, Liz Sly, Borzou Daragahi, Ed O'Keefe and Alissa J. Rubin). 5 show up to tell off the crazy bitch that's slammed everyone online for so many years (Jane Arraf, Arwa Damon, Stephen Farrell, Sam Dagher, Jomana Karadsheh and party crasher David E. Sanger). As we sit down to eat, there is silence that only momentarily vanished during dinner, most people talk to one another, I make some idiotic toast that further alienates everyone present.
The next morning, not even I am stupid enough to delude myself into thinking my dinner party was a success. If someone says to me, "Well people showed up," even I'm not stupid enough to assume they showed up due to some love for me. They showed up for various reasons including manners and to tell me off. I am not idiotic enough to assume that my decision to host a party means my hosting a party makes it a success. Good or bad (and mine was bad), my just hosting a party I invited people too does not make it a success.
The Arab League Summit was not a success for Iraq. Less than half of the heads of countries who are members of the Arab League attended. With the exception of Kuwait, no leader attended because of Nouri. Those other heads of state that attended did so for a variety of reasons but Iraq and Nouri weren't among them.
Today, Liz Sly (Washington Post) offers that "the goodwill generated between Iraq and its Arab neighbors by an extravagant summit in Baghdad last week began unraveling at speed." No goodwill was generated. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was lavishly praised in public remarks by those attending. And some of that praise was probably for him (he was a gregarious host from all account) but some of the heavy praise was just to make a point -- via contrast -- about Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and thug of Iraq) who got far less public praise from those attending. When you grasp that most were not there for Nouri and not impressed by Nouri, you can grasp that he's shot himself in the foot every day since as he's verbally attacked Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He has no real ties to the Arab neighbors. If Kuwait didn't want the borders redrawn, they probably wouldn't be as chummy with him as they are.
Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) broke the news this morning that the national conference had been called off according to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Yamei Wang (Xinhua) adds that the the Speaker "attributed the postponement to the mounting differences among political blocs during a meeting by the prepatory committee held on Tuesday." The national conference is something that Jalal Talabani and Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since December 21st in order to address the ongoing political crisis.
Political Stalemate I (when Nouri wouldn't honor the results of the March 7, 2010 elections) only ended in November 2010 because all parties -- including Nouri -- agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement. Once he was made prime minister -- the main gift to Nouri in the Erbil Agreement -- he tossed it aside, that's December 2010 and the start of Political Stalemate II which has been ongoing ever since. Over the summer, the Kurds began calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. They were then joined by Iraqiya (who came in first in the March 7, 2010 elections) and Moqtada al-Sadr, among others. The Erbil Agreement found Nouri making various concessions if the others would allow him to remain prime minister. But he got to be prime minister and trashed the agreement, refusing to honor what he agreed to, the very things that made the other political blocs sign off on the agreement.
Maliki had agreed to hold the reconciliation conference as a last-minute concession to the Sunnis and Kurds ahead of the Baghdad summit, which the government hoped would showcase Iraq as stable, safe and assuming its rightful place in the firmament of Arab nations after the withdrawal of U.S. troops late last year.
But relations with Arab states have since been deteriorating fast, along with any hopes that Iraq will soon be able to resolve its own internal problems. On Sunday, Maliki issued a forceful defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his ouster would destabilize the region. On the same day, at a U.S.-backed gathering of "Friends of Syria" in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia endorsed a plan to fund and equip Syrian rebels.
Did Nouri want the meet up to take place? Rami Ruhayem (BBC News) argues that today "his opponents said they would not attend, and his allies said there was no point."
This morning, before the meet-up got the axe, Dar Addustour reported on Nouri's paranoia and how he was girding himself for a possible takeover attempt. He doesn't name Barzani but, as Dar Addustour points out, that is who he's referring to when he frets that he may be replaced. Nouri fears his puppet masters in the US may be about to dump him and that's why Barzani is in DC. (Why would the White House dump him? Nouri thinks they might move towards someone more willing to favor an attack on Syria.) He also fears Tareq al-Hashemi's current diplomatic tour of other countries might have something to do with Arab leaders of other countries gearing up for a coup. Unnamed confidants of Nouri state that he is preparing himself for those possibilities and also for a military coup staged by Iraqi security forces loyal to DC. (Last month, State of Law repeatedly floated that there were several Iraqi military officers -- high ranking -- who were spying for the United States.)
Does that really sound like he wanted the meet-up?
Yamei Wang (Xinhua) reports, "Nujaifi attributed the postponement to the mounting differences among political blocs during a meeting by the prepatory committee held on Tuesday." Wang's reporting that the agenda was agreed to but some other issues came up on Tuesday.
Nouri al-Maliki is not a genius, he's barely literate. But when throwing out possibilities, it's worth remembering that Nouri stalls and stalls and stalls again. He stalled on the national conference to begin with. As Liz Sly noted he postponed it until after the Arab League Summit. Most of the other players -- not just Iraqiya -- were saying that it needed to be held in February, then that it needed to take place before the summit.
The reason for the national conference is what? The Erbil Agreement. He's stalled on implementing that for over a year. When the major protests hit Iraq on February 25, 2011 and the people were demanding basic services, jobs and end to corruption and to the 'disappearing' of people in Iraq's legal system, what did Nouri do?
He said, "Give me 100 days and I'll address it." He took 100 days, he never addressed it. Even now, approximately 400 days after he asked for 100 days, he's never addressed the issues that Iraqis raised. He stalls and stalls. He hopes people forget or that he can exhaust them. That's what he did in his first term as prime minister.
Others may have called off the meet-up (they may not). But if something happened on Tuesday night to bring about this decision, don't put it past Nouri to have instigated that. It his pattern.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The slow drift away from him







This week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), features coverage of the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut where both hosts were among the speakers. Another speaker was Black Agenda Report's Margaret Kimberley:
Margaret Kimberley: It's a great pleasure to be here today, speaking to a group of people who proudly proclaim themselves to be anti-war. Now I was told I only had three minutes to speak which is both a hard and easy task at the same time so I'll get to my main point which is pretty simple: You cannot be anti-war and pro-Obama. We can't discuss the issue of NATO and the G8 without talking about Barack Obama. The two events were initially planned to take place in Chicago which is no coincidence -- it's the President's home and his political base. His former Chief of Staff [Rahm Emanuel] now serves as the mayor there. And these events were intended to be coronations for the Obama Doctrine which states that the United States can kill and steal whenever it wants to and wherever it wants to and does so in a fashion which keeps liberals happy even as acts which they decried under Bush are carried out by Obama. Those of us who are anti-war are not fooled because a Democrat makes war instead of a Repbulican or because the current war making Democrat is a Black man. As we all know, the G8 meeting was moved from Chicago to Camp David because the President and his G8 friends are afraid of protest. They are afraid of us. The change of venue for the G8 summit is a sign of success but we can't rest on our laurels and forget the awful forces represented by NATO and the G8. These forces will not be happy until the people of the world accept their rule without question or protest. We know that the goal of the G8 is to turn the whole world into Greece -- a country which, among other things now, has no mimimum wage, no regulation of corporate activities and a shrunken welfare safety net. NATO is an organization which should have outlived its usefulness. It was always a counter-weight to the Warsaw Pact nations but the Soviet Union no longer exists and former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics like Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia and Estonia are now all NATO members. Actually, I should correct myself there. There is a reason for NATO to exist and that is to further the interest of empire and western capitol. NATO is a tool of western imperialism and we saw that all very clearly in Libya. The United States, France and the UK conspired to bring down a sovereign nation's government, kill its leader,spread a race war and lynch law and divide Libya into weak fiefdoms incapable of stopping their collaborators from turning over their resources to NATO and G8 countries. The bombings of civilians and the lies told to the world about a phony humanitarian agenda were all carried out in NATO's name. Now I know that anti-NATO and G8 protests are being planned this weekend and I also know that the Nobel Peace Prize winning president recently signed legislation which makes it a felony to protest at national security events where Secret Service are present and that makes these actions very dangerous. But speaking of protest just as an aside, the actions at political conventions this summer should be restricted to the Democrats. They are, after all, the party in power. They are the only ones who we need to protest to. But even so -- even so, resistance is still the order of the day. Thank you very much.
Of the conference, Glen Ford explains:

I was privileged to present the coordinating committee's draft of the Action Plan to UNAC's national conference in Stamford, Connecticut, this past weekend. "This action plan does not just target some U.S. wars," said the committee's statement. "It does not target the currently unpopular wars. It does not shy away from condemning wars that remain acceptable to half the population because the real reasons for them are obscured in the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention. It does not advocate that we avoid putting U.S. boots on the ground by mounting embargoes that bring economic devastation on the peoples of Iran. It does not condone war by other, more sanitized, means. It does not cheer on wars that minimize U.S. combat deaths by the use of robotic unmanned planes or the highly trained murder squads of the Joint Special Operations Command. It does not see war by mercenary as somehow less threatening to the peoples of the world and the U.S. than war by economic draft. It does not give credit to Washington for removing brigades from one country in order to deploy them in the next."

The document demands an end to "all wars, interventions, targeted assassinations and occupations" and U.S. withdrawal from "NATO and all other interventionist military alliances."

UNAC's reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world's peoples have the inherent right to self-determination, to pursue their own destinies -- the foundation of relations among peoples, enshrined in international law but daily violated by the United States.

Alsumaria TV reports a TV broadcaster was killed by a sticky bombing in Tirkit yesterday. AGI notes that the journalist's name is Kamiran Salaheddin and that he "worked for the Salaheddin channel, which was founded in 2004" by US forces. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has a photo of the 35-year-old here and they explain that he held a Masters degree in the Arabic language, had previously worked for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, that he had been working for the channel since 2005 and that his survivors include his wife and their two children. Reporters Without Borders notes:

Reporters Without Borders condemns Salahaddin TV presenter Kamiran Salaheddin's murder last night in the centre of Tikrit (170 km north of Baghdad). Aged 35 and the father of two children, he was killed at around 9 p.m. by a bomb placed under his car.

"We offer our condolences to Salaheddin's family, friends and colleagues," Reporters Without Borders said. "The Iraqi authorities must do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for his death are brought to justice. His murder must not go unpunished."

The White House released the following today:
Read out of the President's Call with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki
President Obama called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today to congratulate the Iraqi people on the success of the Arab Summit hosted in Baghdad last week, and on Iraq's continued reintegration into the region as a sovereign, independent state. The two leaders discussed the United States and Iraq's joint efforts to advance peace and security in the region as strategic partners. The discussion also covered the political situation in Iraq, and a range of other shared interests. President Obama expressed the United States' firm commitment to a unified, democratic Iraq as defined by Iraq's constitution, as well as his support for Prime Minister Maliki's participation in the ongoing dialogue convened by President Talabani tasked to reconcile Iraqi political blocs in a flexible and open manner.
Barack must have been bored and needing to play with his puppet today. The Arab League Summit, for Iraq, was a failure (see "Editorial: Successful summit for Iraq?"). But for those who delude themselves otherwise, the question to ask is why Barack called Nouri today? The summit was Thursday. Had Barack run out of his March minutes? Exactly what was the hold up on that call?
Oh, because the summit praise was smoke up the ass. The actual point of the call was to try to coax the puppet into playing nice tomorrow when a national conference is supposed to be held.
Iraq's been in political crisis for over a year now. Since December 21st, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a National Conference. Supposedly that will take place tomorrow. Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) reports that Iraqiya's Haidar Mulla states they "will only paticipate in the convention if the Erbil Agreement is implemented and the security posts are finalized beforehand." The three security ministries -- Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of the Defense and Ministry of National Security -- were supposed to be named by the end of December 2010. That was how Nouri al-Maliki would move from prime minister-designate to prime minister -- per the Constitution. Instead, he was moved without naming a full Cabinet and those posts remain empty all this time later, have never been filled while violence has increased in Iraq.

By not filling them, Nouri controls them. He ignores the Constitution and declares someone 'acting' minister. Then they do what he tells them or he fires them. If he nominated someone for the post and the person was confirmed, Nouri could not fire them. He would not Parliament's backing. Since December, he's been trying to strip Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq of his post. Thus far Parliament has refused to go along with him so al-Multaq retains his post.

Ahmed reports:

Muayad Taiyb, spokesperson for the Kurdistani bloc in Iraqi Parliament, believes Barzani is avoiding the convention because he believes it won't solve anything.
"Massud Barzani is not hopeful about the results of the convention; that's why he will not participate in it."
Mulla believes that Barzani's decision to not attend the convention will affect the positions of other political leaders.
"If President Barzani does not participate in the convention, then neither will Alawi," he said. "Massoud Barzani is a key figure in the political process in Iraq. His absence at the convention will make it have no value."
The State of Law Coalition has left many political issues unresolved with the Kurdistan Region and the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc.
Taiyb says, "The State of Law bloc has issues with both the Iraqiya bloc and the Kurds. The convention is meaningless without Iraqiya's participation because the main issues in the political process in Iraq are between Iraqiya and the State of Law."
Earlier this week, Al Rafidayn noted that Iraqiya's concerns include Saleh al-Mutlaq and Tareq al-Hashemi and that, for the conference to have real meaning, KRG President Massoud Barzani, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim and Moqtada al-Sadr would need to attend. Barzani will not be attending. He's out of the country on a diplomatic tour and has already arrived in the United States. Today he spoke with the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl and Jim Hoagland and Diehl reports:
"The more you look at it, the more you see the situation going toward conflict and chaos," he said Tuesday.
To the south, in Baghdad, Barzani sees Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "concentrating power," having driven the leader of Iraq's Sunni population to seek de facto asylum in Kurdistan. "Iraq right now is facing a crisis," he told me and The Post's Jim Hoagland during a visit to Washington. "There may be some people who do not want to call it a crisis, but it is a crisis. This is not the Iraq we struggled for: We are seeing the consolidation of power under one party and one ruler."
Hadi Jalo tells Hamza Hendawi (AP), "The sectarian war has moved away from violence to soft conflict fought int he state institutions, government ministries and on the street. What was once an armed conflict has turned into territorial, instituationalized and psychological segregation." Henawi explains that Sunnis are basically blacklisted from employment in the government and at colleges and that Shi'ites in charge "stonewall them when they seek help locating the remains of loved ones."
Iraqiya members Saleh al-Mutlaq and Tareq al-Hashemi are political rivals of Nouri al-Maliki's -- he leads State of Law, they belong to Iraqiya. (Iraqiya came in first in the March 7, 2010 elections.) In addition, while Nouri is a Shi'ite, al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are both Sunni and some see the attacks on the two men by Nouri as both political attacks and sectarian attacks.
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, whom Nouri wants arrrested but has been in the KRG as a guest of KRG President Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, went to Qatar on Sunday (and states he will return to Iraq when he finishes up his diplomatic tour that will include visits to other countries). Nouri's government is engaging in a war of words with the government of Qatar over Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's visit to the country. Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister of Energy al-Sharistani -- who apparently believes his title is much more elastic than it would appear to be -- declared that Qatar should hand over al-Hashemi. It was never going to happen. But Nouri and his minions have their answer today. AP reports that Qatar's State Minister Khaled al-Aiityah has stated that they will do no such thing. RTT News adds, "Qatar's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Attiyah stated at a press conference held Tuesday that Hashemi could not be extradited to Iraq as requested by Baghdad because there was no court judgment against him. The minister also noted that Hashemi still holds the post of vice-president." Alex Delmar-Morgan (Wall Street Journal) offers, "Qatar's stance is likely to sour already strained ties with Iraq where the pursuit of Mr. Hashemi by the Shiite-led government is stoking political tensions and threatening to destabilize the country's delicate sectarian balance."
Laith Saud: Well let's look at this from three different angles. The first angle being that the moment the United States departed from Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, began to consolidate his power and go after any potential political rivals. So, in terms of analysis, there's a great deal -- a great deal of evidence to suggest that these are trumped up charges against Tareq al-Hashemi, the Vice President of Iraq. So he seeks refuge in the Kurdish region, in northern Iraq, which is semi-qutonomous and has its own security forces and which he was there until very recently. He decides to go to Qatar this past Sunday in order to engage in diplomatic talks with the Qataries, in particular the Prime Minister of Qatar, which was a huge slap in the face to al-Maliki considering that the vice president is wanted. However, if you look at what happened at the Arab League just these recent days ago --
Jerome McDonnell: And it took place in --
Laith Saud: In Baghdad.
Jerome McDonnell: For the first time in forever.
Laith Saud: Yeah, for the first time since 1990. The Qataries sent very low-level representation to that Arab Summit which was kind of a slap in the face of Iraq again or, in particular, Nouri al-Maliki. The message that the Qataries were sending was that they believe the Sunnis in Iraq are being marginalized, that, in fact, they are being repressed, and this was their way of challenging what they see as the more sectarian role that they feel that Iraq is playing in the Middle East.
Jerome McDonnell: And Iraq sees that there are some Shi'ites that are being marginalized in Bahrain.
Laith Saud: Exactly.
Jerome McDonnell: And they see some actions where they think the Saudis drive -- driving the old army into Bahrain is not cricket with some of the Shi'ites there.
Laith Saud: No, you're absolutely right, Jerome. And what's happening is the sectarian discourse, the sectarian narrative is really reaching a high level pitch in recent years. So you have Shi'ite governments or so-called Shi'ite governments if we could use such a term talking about the persecution of Shias in Bahrain and, on the flip side, you have Sunni governments -- if you want to use such a term -- talking about the persecution of Sunnis in Shi'ite countries like Iraq and in the middle of all of this is Syria where you have a -- an essentially Shi'ite government that is seen to be persecuting its largely Sunni population. Now, is this posturing? Are these really sectarian conflicts? Are these essentially not sectarian conflicts and this is a guise by which people are battling out for resources? I tend to think so. But there's no question that the sectarian nature of the narrative has reached a new level.
And of course it's not just Qatar. AP notes, "Nouri al-Maliki, launched a thinly veiled attack on both nations during a news conference on Sunday in Baghdad, saying their desire to arm Syrian rebels would deepen the conflict there." They go on to note "a column published in Tuesday's Saudi-owned, pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat, editor-in chief Tariq al-Hamid . . ." That's this column. We noted it yesterday, we noted Tariq Alhomayed's column yesterday, when Arab News ran it. Excerpt.
Likewise, the Al-Maliki government has remained in power as a result of Iranian pressure, despite Al-Maliki losing the elections and coming second behind Iyad Allawi, so how can he fear for the region now if Assad is overthrown by force?
How can Al-Maliki attack Saudi Arabia and Qatar following the Arab summit in Baghdad, after both countries attended the meeting, and especially given the positions of both countries in the days leading up to the event.
Meanwhile, ahead of the summit Al-Maliki had announced that his government could not defend Assad. So how, nearly three days after the Baghdad summit, can Al-Maliki turn on Saudi Arabia and Qatar today? Of course, this is clear deception, and evidence that Al-Maliki's government cannot be trusted. Had he attacked "these two countries" before the Baghdad summit, then matters would have turned out differently.
Most important of all, in addition to the fact that we cannot trust the Al-Maliki government, is that the Iraqi government is trying to secure a safe passageway for the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Assad regime, and this is what a witness -- a dissident Syrian official -- reported to the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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