Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Grand Chief of Devils





 Since December 21st, Fridays have meant protests in Iraq -- and harassment of protests by Nouri al-Maliki's forces.  Today, protests took place in many locations including Mosul, Samarra (where Nouri had aircraft providing surveillance), Tikrit (where Nouri's forces -- like Americans in Abu Ghraib prison -- used dogs to 'assist' them, where protesters called for a unified Iraq, and decried attempts by the government to suppress the media), and Jalawla (where Nouri's forces closed roads in an attempt to stop the protests and then closed entrances to the square).  All Iraq News notes that today the protesters elected Mohamed Taha al-Hamdoun to be the spokesperson for protesters in Anbar, Salahudden, Kirkuk, Baghdad, Diyala and Mosul.

National Iraqi News Agency notes that, in Falluja, Sheikh Ahmad al-Abadali spoke of the commitment to peaceful demonstrations and wondered why Nouri continues to use sectarian terms as it attempts to dismiss the protests?  NINA notes that in Falluja's morning prayers, Sheikh Mohamed Taha Hamdon declared that there were four options: replace Nouri, divide Iraq into three regions, "we rule ourselves in our provinces according to the constitution and in accordance with systems of more than 41 percent of the world's countries, stressing that who advocates to implement this option are seeking preserve the unity of Iraq and the fourth option is, confrontation and war, and this option is hated by the people."  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds, "In Samarra, Sunni cleric Mohammed Taha warned that the country is descending to civil war because of what he described as a-Maliki’s dictatorship."

Replace Nouri?  In today's New York Times, Nussaibah Younis makes the case for that with "Why Maliki must go" -- which we'll get to in a minute.  In yesterday's snapshot, we noted former US Ambassador Ryan Crocker had a column (Washington Post) which is mistaken beyond means.  I argued:

While the key moments of betrayal did not happen on his watch (it was under the dithering idiot Chris Hill), you cannot act, in 2013, as if talk will bring back the progress of 2010.  We'll address that at length tomorrow.  As with the issue of US forces in Iraq, it's one of those topics we have to keep going back to because so few will ever bother to cover it.  The shortest version is when you make a deal in 2010 and one party (Nouri) fails to honor it, you can't show three years later and say, "Well let's just talk and try to progress."  No, we don't reset the clock.  If there is to be progress in 2013, the first step is honoring the contract that was signed in 2010.

He proposes everyone just talk and:

Last week, the US Congressional Research Service published "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."  The report was written by Kenneth Katzman.  We're noting the section on the 2010 elections and The Erbil Agreement:

Part of the difficulty forming a government after the election was the close result, and the dramatic implications of gaining or retaining power in Iraq, where politics is often seen as a "winner take all" proposition.  In accordance with timelines established in the Constitution, the newly elected COR [Council of Representatives, Parliament] convened on June 15, 2020, but the session ended after less than a half hour without electing a COR leadership team.  The various factions made little progress through August 2010, as Maliki insisted he remain prime minister for another term and remained in a caretaker role.  The United States stepped up its involvement in political talks, but it was Iraqi politics that led the factions out of an impasse.  On October 1, 2010, Maliki received the backing of most of the 40 COR Sadrist deputies.  The United States reportedly was concerned that Maliki might form a government with Sadrist support.  The Administration ultimately backed a second Maliki term, although continuing to demand that Maliki form a broad-based government inclusive of Sunni leaders.  Illustrating the degree to which the Kurds reclaimed their former role of "kingmakers," Maliki, Allawi, and other Iraqi leaders met in the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government-administered region in Irbil on November 8, 2010, to continue to negotiate on a new government.  (Sadr did not attend the meeting in Irbil, but ISCI/Iraq National Alliance slate leader Ammar Al Hakim did.) 
 On November 10, 2010, with reported direct intervention by President Obama, the "Irbil Agreement" was reached in which (1) Allawi agreed to support Maliki and Talabani to remain in their offices for another term; (2) Iraqiyya would be extensively represented in government -- one of its figures would become COR Speaker, another would be defense minister, and another (presumably Allawi himself) would chair an oversight body called the "National Council for Strategic Policies," and (3) amending the de-Baathification laws that had barred some Iraqis, such as Saleh al-Mutlaq, from holding political positions.  Observers praised the agreement because it included all major factions and was signed with KRG President Masoud Barzani and then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey in attendance. The agreement did not specify concessions to the Sadr faction.

We've address The Erbil Agreement over and over.  Like US troops still in Iraq, it's one of those topics that results in drive-by readers e-mailing to insist (a) it never happened and (b) the US was in no way involved in it.

The Erbil Agreement ended the 8 month political stalemate that followed the 2010 elections.  It's the legal contract, brokered by the US, that allowed those not supporting Nouri to throw in their support in exchange for legally defined within the contract terms.  The KRG, for example, was supposed to get the census and referendum in Kirkuk (promised in Article 140 of the Constitution but that Nouri refused to move on in his first term).  Another promise was that an independent national security council would be created and Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi would head it. (Iraqiya won the 2010 elections; Nouri's State of Law came in second.  He refused to honor the election results and step down which created the political stalemate that lasted 8 months.)

Let's point out that this move by Nouri was not a surprise.  In the lead-up to the 2010 elections, US Gen Ray Odierno was warning this could happen but the White House elected not to listen to him.  They backed the idiot Chris Hill who was then US Ambassador to Iraq.  Hill didn't even want Odierno speaking to the media and the White House went along with that as well.  Odierno warned what could happen.  The idiot and unqualified Hill (and we noted he was an unqualified and an idiot when we reported on his confirmation hearing -- see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th snapshot) and the White House that courted and coddled him are responsible for what went down in 2010.  And you can read more about that and how it took Odierno going to then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates after the 2010 parliamentary election and Gates bringing then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in on their conversation for Odierno to get the audience with the administration that he should have received automatically by reading Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's The Endgame.

Barack was an idiot to have shut General Ray Odierno, the top-US commander in Iraq, out of the conversation.  To his credit, when approached by Gates and Clinton (and faced with ongoing political stalemate and Chris Hill's inability to answer basic questions about it), Barack did act quickly to replace the idiot.  Which is how you had James Jeffrey quickly nominated to be the new US Ambassador to Iraq with a confirmation hearing taking place July 20, 2010.  That said, in our reporting on Hill's confirmation, we noted he was unqualified, we noted he had no understanding of the issues.  The 15 or so months he was allowed to be ambassador to Iraq were a disaster whose repercussions are still felt today.

Ryan Crocker was the US Ambassador to Iraq immediately before Chris Hill.  He was nominated by Bully Boy Bush and, after Barack was elected in 2008, Crocker offered to stay on until a replacement could be found.

As Betty noted last night, Iraq got coverage (finally) on The NewsHour (PBS -- all links to the program that follow are text, audio and video).  Betty covered the segment on the violence.  The other segment was Ray Suarez moderating a discussion about the state of Iraq featuring Ryan Crocker and former Iraqi Deputy Ambassadot to the UN (2004 to 2007) Feisal Istrabadi.

Istrabadi starts out noting the basic problem ("Nouri al-Maliki himself has been asserting greater and greater control over the instrumentalities of the state, and I -- and has been unable or unwilling to enter or execute the compromises") to which Crocker quickly agrees ("I think Feisal is right, Ray.").  Crocker mentions the slaughter in Hawija (last week, a peaceful sit-in was attacked by Nouri's forces leaving 50 dead and 110 injured) but feels this is a "signal for Iraqis of all sects and ethnicities to take a very deep breath" -- no, that's not how it works in a functioning society.  A despot does not launch a massacre  and the response is, "Let's take a deep breath."  While you're taking that deep breath, you're likely to be stormed the same way the sit-in in Hawija was.

As Betty did on Wednesday, Feisal Istrabadi noted some contents of the US diplomatic tookbox that the US could be using to influence events.  Crocker wants US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to act as mediators.  But for what purpose?

I agree they should be mediating.  But Crocker's column in the Post offers this notion that things can be healed with talking.

No.  The Erbil Agreement was a legally binding contract (that the White House swore had its full support and backing).  Nouri used it to become prime minister and then tossed it aside refusing to honor it.  Since 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for Nouri to implement The Erbil Agreement and he has refused.

You can't trust someone like that.  Forget for the moment that The Erbil Agreement is like every other promise Nouri makes (including the "100 Days To End Corruption" promise to the Iraqi people of February 2011) in that he gets attention and praise for a proposal but never follows up on it.

The Erbil Agreement ended up a political stalemate.  It was a legal contract.  Nouri used just enough of it to get what he wanted (a second term as prime minister) and then trashed it.  And has refused to implement even when called on to do so.

How do you trust someone who refuses to honor a contract?

You can not hit the re-set button and start all over on this.  It doesn't work that way.

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