Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Create the monster then blame others







All Iraq News reports that various leaders in and members of Iraqiya reported to Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's office today for a meet-up to address "the political situation in Iraq and the file of the current demonstrations."  Iraqiya is a political slate headed by Ayad Allawi.  Along with Allawi, prominent members include Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Saleh al-Mutlaq.  One prominent member is the country's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi; however, al-Hashemi wasn't present since Nouri ran him out of the country early last year with charges of 'terrorism.'  Iraqiya is a non-sectarian slate.  It came in first in the March 20120 elections besting Nouri's own State of Law political slate.   A statement from al-Mutlaq notes that Allawi called the meeting and stressed "the importance of answering the demonstrators' demands."

The demonstrators and their demands become more important each week as their numbers grow.  Friday, Iraq saw massive demonstrations in the ongoing protests with participants number over 3 million -- especially amazing in a country where that would make an estimated 10% of the population.  The BRussells Tribunal and Iraqi Spring Media Center offer two photo essays -- here and here -- on Fridays' demonstrations.  

Nouri has his own way of not ignoring the protesters:  He spies on them.  And Friday, Nouri's forces were taping the protesters.  This happened in 2011 as well.  And then the protesters began to be targeted not at the protests, but at their homes.  The photo is from Iraqi Spring Media CenterZarzis Thomas (Al Mada) reported Saturday about the Friday Mosul protest where complaints about the treatment of the protesters reached Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi who went down to the square to find out what was going on. Protesters reported that they were being arrested and harassed.  al-Nujaifi took down the names of protesters said to have been arrested so his office could follow up.  When he was leaving, the governor reports that federal police (they are controlled by Nouri al-Maliki) attempted to attack his car and his security detail to provoke them into exchanging gun fire.  He states the federal police deliberately attempted to create a crisis, deliberately attempted an attack on a sitting governor. In addition, Tigris Operation Command (Nouri's force) -- specifically Brigades 46 and 47 -- continue to do house raids in the area. 

Nouri's forces attempted to provoke the security detail for the governor of the province into an exchange of gun fire.  You would think this would result in some outcry.  Instead, in a sign of just how bad things are in Iraq, it barely registers.

National Iraqi News Agency quoted Iraqiya MP Hassan al-Jubouri condemning actions taken Saturday in Mosul, "The Third Army Division in Mosul has shut down the Square protest and blocked access in and out and cut the power, prevented the media from covering the events, and the purpose of this measure is an attempt to get the protesters out of their peaceful protest ."

That action and the incident with Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi may have prompted today's Iraqiya meet-up (Atheel al-Nujaifi is a member of Iraqiya and the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi).  It may also be behind the United Nations sudden desire for meet-ups in Iraq.  National Iraq News Agency reports that the UN  Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler met with the Iraqi Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi Sunday to discuss various issues.  al-Issawi, a member of Iraqiya, states, "the demands of the demonstrators and the importance of meeting them by the government because they are legitimate and constitutional demands."  Yesterday, Alsumaria noted that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met with Kobler to discuss the crack down on the protesters and the harassment.  Anadoln Agency adds, "In a written statement on Sunday, Kobler noted that his meeting with al-Nujaifi covered the issues of human rights and the emergency situation in Iraq."  All Iraq News notes that Kobler met with Nouri today.  Also today, they note, US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft met with Ruz Mahdi Shawis.

The protests were discussed on this week's Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox as Cindy spoke with Iraq War veteran Ross Caputi and with Dr. Dahlia Wasfi.  Wasfi and Caputi are with The Justice for Fallujah Project.  Excerpt.

Cindy Sheehan:  So, Dahlia, I want to ask you this.  Of course, we are supposed to praise Obama because he ended the war in Iraq.  And part of the problem is that he got a Nobel Peace Prize and people think he's anti-war because he called the war in Iraq "stupid" -- even though he said he's not against war.  So what -- you're Iraqi-American, you have family there.  What is your sense of where Iraq stands today? 

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi:  Well I'm -- I'm watching from a distance and I would sort of I think is a reflection of the repression has continued and worsened today in Iraq is that I can't talk politics with my cousins out of fear of anybody listening to the conversations and that there would be repercussions for them because of it.  But I think, uhm, yes, technically, there was an official troop withdrawal in 2011 but this does not include the thousands who remain -- US military personnel who remain behind to protect at least the US Embassy.  And then there are thousands of mercenaries.  And, by my estimations, its the CIA administrators operating out of the Embassy and I'm not sure how many they have -- involving themselves in government affairs and civil affairs in Iraq today.  But what we can see now is our legacy from the invasion and occupation -- with the government that came to power during our occupation -- is that these unbelievable degrees of repression -- including arbitrary detentions, torture, rape -- this is ongoing for Iraqi society.  And this is what the demonstrations in Iraq are about today.  Now, of course, the mainstream media tells us a story that, 'Well this is a Shia government and these are Sunni who are upset with that and so they are rejecting the Shi'ite government.'  But from all the news that I'm getting on the ground that this is -- and they put the signs in English for western media that say, 'We are against sectarianism.  We reject the tyranny of this government. We reject Nouri al-Maliki.  And there's no sectarianism, this is unity.'  And also as a result of our invasion, religious groups and their militias that were based in Iran crossed over into Iraq, especially southern Iraq, in the earlier years -- 2003, 2004, 2005 -- and became dominant in the south.  And what also happened was under our control of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, we installed individuals who would orchestrate the death squads in Iraq.  And these individuals like Bayan Jabr also was from Iran, originallly Iraq but was from Iran and was actually a high ranking member, high ranking official of the Bard Brigades.  So the structure that is in place in Iraq today is absolutely -- They call it the second part of the occupation.  Iraqis know exactly what is going on and they are fighting once again to have their -- basically to have their sovereignty.  So this is the legacy that continue today.  Most -- most of the west, as far as I can tell, is turning a blind eye to it.  But this is a real liberation movement.  You can call this a liberation movement.  And meanwhile the US administration continues to deal arms with the Iraqi government.  So it's same-old-same-old.  This is very comparable to the relationship that the United States had with Saddam during the 1980s.  And  I believe that when Nouri al-Maliki no longer satisfies our agenda in the area then we will have to "liberate" Iraq again.  So we'll see what happens.  But the people, their slogan is "NO RETREAT." And they have endured enough and are willing to-to -- They have bled for their future in the past. 

Please note, that's the first time that the Iraqi protests have been discussed on independent or 'independent' media.  Haifa Zangana (Guardian) writes about the protests noting:

The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.

[. . .]

No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of "violating with impunity the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees". HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.
Responding to these findings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to "arrest those members of parliament who had discussed the violence against women detainees". Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has acknowledged that there are 13,000 prisoners in custody accused of terror offences, but he only mentioned women detainees in passing:

"We transferred all women prisoners to prisons in their home provinces."
Al-Shahristani's statement is one in a long list of contradictory and misleading statements by the regime's most senior officials – from al-Maliki speaking of "not more than a handful of women terrorists", to his contradictory promise that he will pardon all "women detainees who have been arrested without a judicial order or in lieu of a crime committed by some of their male relatives". That assurance was followed by parading nine women, cloaked in black from head to toe, on the official state TV channel, al-Iraqiya, as a gesture of the regime's "good will".
Protesters and Iraqi human rights organizations estimate that there are as many as 5,000 female detainees. The truth is leaking out, drip by drip. A few weeks ago, 168 women detainees were released and there were promises of another 32 waiting to be released. No one accused of torture, rape or abuse has yet been brought to justice.

Drip by drip.  Now if only the western media could pick up on it?  Instead of avoiding this issue which is at the heart of the protests but never makes it into the wire reports.  It shouldn't be that hard to note this reality.   In a column for Al Quds (in Arabic), Haifa Zangana ends by noting that the Iraqi Spring began with protests against the prison rapes in Mosul and Anbar Province and that the protests are only becoming more popular because their demands strike a common thread.  Bie Kentane (BRussells Tribunal) observes, "Women prisoners have been subjected to torture by electrocution, beatings, and rape by the investigators during interrogation.  Often they were arrested instead of their husbands.  Some of the women have no idea why they were arrested and imprisoned for many years.  Some of the inmates' children were born in prisons.  Have a look at these revealing videos.  This horrendous situation has been created by the US occupation and is continuing under Maliki's puppet government."

Saturday, NINA reported Nouri al-Maliki declared he would ask the judiciary to condemn (that would be a death sentence) "anyone who talks in sectarianism." Sunday,  Kitabat reported that Anbar Province's Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha has responded that the person resorting to sectarian talk is Nouri al-Maliki himself.  Oudai Hatem (Al-Hayat via Al-Monitor) also speaks with Sheikh Abu Risha:

Abu Risha called on Maliki to “sue himself since he is the main promoter of sectarianism and the reason behind the escalating tension in the country.”
Abu Risha was referring to the statements Maliki made two days ago, in which he threatened to sue “promoters of sectarianism,” accusing some countries, without specifying names, of “entrenching sectarianism in Iraq.”
Regarding the extension of the mandatory vacation of al-Iraqiya List ministers, Abu Risha considered that the “participation of al-Iraqiya ministers in the government will transform them into false witnesses; therefore, I call upon them to withdraw from the government. There’s no point in maintaining their participation.”
Information sources closely tied to the prime minister’s office have revealed that “Maliki has issued a decision to extend the mandatory vacation of al-Iraqiya ministers who boycotted the session for another month.”
Abu Risha denied forming a delegation to negotiate with the government, stressing that “the demands have been handed to the government since the first days of demonstrations. Sending more delegations will be in vain; the protests will continue until the government fulfills the demands.”

When he should be dealing with the above, Nouri is instead jotting down to southern Iraq yesterday for an unneeded event/facility.  Al Rafidayn reports he went to Basra for the Sports City opening.  Iraqis need potable water and dependable electricity, the need a strong rations program, a program that cares for widows and children.  We noted this earlier in the month but, again, Iraqi Women Platform For Lasting Peace has called for unity.  UNAMI notes this statement from the group:


We urge the women of Iraq, mothers and wives from all across the country, to speak with one powerful voice from now on against violence and violations.
We are Iraqi Women Members of Parliament, and in order to ensure a bright future for the men and women of Iraq, we proclaim that we want no part in the loss of more lives and shedding of more blood. On behalf of the women seeking stability and justice in the country, we declare that only through peace can Iraq be built.
The crisis appears to be complicated, with many parties involved, but we all believe that Iraqi leaders - both women and men - are capable of resolving the crisis and tackling its reasons wisely and consciously.
We reject violence in all its forms.  We condemn terrorism and murders all over Iraq. We assert the constitutional rights of the people in peaceful demonstrations. And we further assert the responsibility of the armed forces in protecting the demonstrators and respecting their legitimate prospects.
We express our willingness in active, serious actions: meeting with the demonstrators, listening to the citizens, communicating the demands and institutionalizing and reforming the political and development processes.

We will keep claiming: peace and security for our country. Peace and security for our country.

Again, while he can't address the needs of the Iraqi people, he can rush down to Basra for Sports City. 


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