A SAGGY AND ELDERLY MADONNA TEAMED UP WITH BRITNEY AND CHRISTINA TO APPEAR RELEVANT, STEVIE WONDER TEAMED UP WITH DRAKE FOR THE SAME REASON.
ANOTHER FADED STAR IS FOLLOWING SUIT.
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FROM THE TCI WIRE:
"Ten years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the better future that we seek is still a goal, not a given," Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari declared today. He arrived in DC to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday. Today, he delivered a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It was not a good speech. It was often not a factual speech. It was a speech that showed Zebari at his worst.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is a Kurd as is Zebari. Too often, both men are seen as refusing to stand up and lacking spine. In small ways, Talabani has been able to deliver for the Kurds which is what has redeemed him with many in the Kurdistan Regional Government. Last year, Talabani suffered a stroke. The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently.
Zebari attempted a move for the presidency in early 2013, angering not just just the Talabani family but many officials of both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Talabani's party) and of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (led by KRG President Massoud Barzani). It was thought that Zebari was once again putting himself ahead of the Kurdish interests. It was made clear to Zebari that should he attempt to grab the office, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed would announce she was filling the post and that she would have backing from leadership in the PUK as well as the blessing from the KDP. Zebari's work has too often been seen to benefit Nouri al-Maliki and not the Kurds. His statements have too often seem to leave out Sunnis which especially became an issue when the Kurds began attempting to improve relations in 2011. Most of all, an attempt to seize the post could remove the presidency from Kurdish control. That is why the First Lady of Iraq reluctantly agreed with the leadership of the two major political parties in the KRG that if anyone should attempt to grab the post, she would announce she was assuming the role while her husband recovered. Such a move would be popular with many Kurds but would also play well across Iraq due to the sympathies over Jalal's stroke.
Zebari's speech did nothing to redeem his image.
Minister Hoshyar Zebari: As Iraqis rebuild our own country, Iraq and the United States will benefit by building a longterm partnership. Together, we can and must develop what President Obama has described as "a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect." With our political progress, our economic progress, and our diplomatic progress, Iraq is taking its place as a partner for the United States, for our neighbors, and for the family of nations. On the political front, we are building a multi-ethnic, multi-party democracy, with respect for the rule of law. Our democratic process is moving forward at a strong and steady pace. Our local elections took place in April of this year. In Iraqi Kurdistan, there would be regional elections in September this year.
First major screw up. Anbar and Nineveh were not allowed to vote in April. The two provinces were penalized by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for their ongoing protests. He said it was due to violence. A lie. Baghdad Province had more violence at that time. He provided other excuses (such as voter theft), none were believed. The so-called Independent High Electoral Commission was against the delay and was the only individual or body who could legally authorize it. Allowing Nouri to get away with postponing elections set a dangerous precedent. Anbar and Nineveh were finally allowed to vote in July. To no one's surprise, Nouri's State of Law faired poorly in the elections.
Zebari may have been attempting to smooth over differences but to Sunnis it will appear that 'their' Foreign Minister (Sunnis are Iraqis too) has yet again sleighted them -- and this time on the international stage.
Hoshyar Zebari: And our legislative elections, generral elections will take place next year -- which will determine our national leadership -- a very, very important date to watch. We have a government of national unity. Now all the communities participate in the working of the government and of the Parliament.
No. By "the working of the government," he means the Cabinet. Iraqiya walked out this summer. Do not point to Saleh al-Mutlaq or any other person. The leader of Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi. In June, Sarah Montague (BBC Hardtalk) did one of her hard hitting interviews where she takes an adversarial position. This interview was with Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya. He noted Iraqiya walked out of the Cabinet and that any who remained were not Iraqiya members. Zebari betrays many by refusing to acknowledge The Erbil Agreement or Nouri's failure to honor it.
Hoshyar Zebari: Yes, we have differences of opinion, as all democracies do, but we are working together and slowly but surely our efforts are achieving results. We are promoting human rights. There has been violations, which we admit, but there are constant efforts to improve on that. and to be responsive to all codes and also the freedom of expression and the advancements of women. There has been demonstrations and sit-ins in Iraq in many provinces, in western part of Iraq and some Sunni provinces in Iraq for the last eight months and they have kept [can't make out the word], they have sit-ins, they have obstructions, but the government have not resorted to the same methods the Egyptians recently used or deployed to disperse the demonstrators.
First off, don't e-mail that Zebari didn't say it. He did. It's not in prepared remarks. I know that. I was e-mailed the prepared remarks (as were many, I see, by looking at the cc). Zebari went off script and did so without stumbling which indicates to me he didn't want Nouri to know he was mentioning the protests.
Nouri's thugs have intimidated, harassed and followed protesters. In single digits, his forces have been responsible for deaths at protests several times in the last eight months. That's not even allowing for the refusal to allow journalists near to cover the protests or his arrests of journalists who try to cover the protests.
Third, the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from Nouri's federal forces storming in. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
It is not a minor event. The International Crisis Group noted this week
After Hawija, Iraq is on the brink of a relapse into generalised conflict, confronted with a resurgence of Sunni militant operations, the strengthening of al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and waves of attacks fuelling sectarian tensions. The government has tightened security measures even further, exacerbating the divide between Sunni constituents and central authorities.
Zebari lied and let's also remember the attack took place over the objection of the governor of Kirkuk. Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviewed Governor Najm al-Din Karim back in May:
NIQASH: Let’s talk about the controversial Tigris Operations Command. It’s caused several crises around here. What’s your opinion on this Iraqi military base?
Al-Din Karim: Neither I, as governor, nor the provincial council have changed our opinions on this issue. We don’t want the Tigris Operations Command here and we don’t accept their presence. Although we have agreed to form a committee in Baghdad to try and resolve this impasse.
NIQASH: The incidents in Hawija, where protestors were killed by the Iraqi military, also seems to have seen more Iraqi army forces enter Kirkuk.
Al-Din Karim: Actually those forces did not come through Kirkuk - they entered Hawija by helicopter. They tried to come through Kirkuk but we prevented them from doing so. I know the Prime Minister disapproved of this – he told me so last time we met.
Not exactly the rosy picture Zebari painted.
During the Q and A, Zebari got a little more honest, for a brief second.
Hoshyar Zebari: As I said before, really we have demonstrations, sit-ins, all over the country for the past eight months and the government never resorted to the kind of violence -- except in one or two incidences in Haiwja. And I'm not here to justify this violations whatsoever. But really the government has tolerated this so far to go on without any intimidations.
Back to his speech:
Hoshyar Zebari: All the political parties have accepted election as a method of power-sharing and peaceful change. Iraqis want to decide our future with voting, not violence. On the economic front , we are growing and diversifying. We have one of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, expanding by 9.6 percent in 2011 and 10.5 percent in 2012. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, we will grow by 8.2 percent this year -- beating China for the third straight year. On the energy front, our oil production has increased by 50 percent since 2005. Iraq expects to increase oil production to 4.5 million barrels by the end of 2014 and nine million barrels a day by 2020. As the International Energy Agency has reported, Iraq is poised to double our output of oil by the decade of the 2030’s. We will emerge as the world’s second largest energy exporter. And we will ease a strained global oil market. In spite of this progress, we face serious economic problems. Ninety percent of our economy depends on oil. Our unemployment rate is 11 percent. Our poverty rate is 23 percent. Terrorism 3 contributes to the cycle of poverty, and young unemployed men can be ready recruits for terrorist groups. In order to diversify our economy beyond energy, Iraq is investing oil revenues in education and crucial development projects, incl uding restoring electrical power and rebuilding our transportation system.
Most experts argue Iraq's unemployment rate is actually 21% or higher. As for diversifying the economy, Nouri's been promising that since 2006. Too bad for Nouri, the only high ranking official who worked on that was Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. As Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) reminds:
Iraqi Sunnis, for sure, are furious. Al Maliki has blamed them for the deteriorating security. Further, he has systematically purged leading Sunnis from his government, like Vice-President Tareq Al Hashemi, who was sent into exile, and Finance Minister Rafia Al Issawi, who barely escaped an assassination attempt in 2012. The Baathists are still taboo in Iraqi politics. Al Maliki is the man who single-handedly wrote off the execution of every single senior Sunni of the former regime, including Saddam himself.
Lara Jakes (AP) reports Zebari noted today that Iraq needed US "advisers, intellgence analysis and surveillance assets -- including lethal drones." Jakes (AP) reported this morning on Iraq and how it is being shoved aside in the news cycle by other events. It wouldn't have opened the snapshot were it not for Zebari's speech. We would have opened with the illegal spying. The plan was to include a new report on Iraq and to explore Nouri's 'leadership' and a third term. That's getting shoved back to next week, hopefully Monday. We will also likely return to Zebari's speech to note more from the questions and answer section.
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