Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I am barely blogging (sing along)

"Celebrating The Least of Nora Ephron (Ava and C.I.)" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
If you're going to honor Nora's writing, you honor the bravery.
That doesn't happen here.
Nora's most important piece of journalism was when she was writing for Esquire.
There was a major scandal taking place.
A man, a reporter, had leaked a Congressional report to the press (after his own network had refused to cover the report) and, when questioned by his network, the man blamed and accused Lesley Stahl.  That's not the only colleague he burned.
And Nora outlined everything in "Daniel Schorr:"

The plot is a simple one: a reporter whose obsession with scoops occasionally leads him to make mistakes develops an obsession about a secret document and makes several terrible blunders that lead to his downfall.  What happened to Dan Schorr is a real tragedy, but only because he did so much of it himself. 

It's a tight essay, a truth-telling masterpiece.
It takes courage to write what she wrote.  Schorr was a sacred cow to some.
And that's why Esquire refused to run the essay.
She could have backed down.  It wasn't a piece that would make friends.  She wrote it, her magazine turned it down, she could turn her focus to something else.
But like Annie in Sleepless In Seattle, Nora didn't back down and when someone tried to intimidate her, they quickly learned just how strong and resourceful she could be.
With Esquire refusing to publish it, Nora took it to the journalism review magazine More where it was published.
Times really haven't changed all that much.
Daniel Schorr was a trashy person with no ethics.  Thanks to that, the Pike Report (on the CIA) became public.
That didn't make Schorr a hero unless you were one of the simpletons who needed your Little Golden Book understanding of the world.
We like Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) but he is one of those people who needs a very clearly drawn hero and will get very upset (look at how he's responded to criticism of Julian Assange) when people dare to question a fairytale.
For Nora, truth was truth.
And you were either someone who told it or you didn't.
That's why she could take on feminism -- yes, she could be critical of it even though she was a staunch feminist -- that's why she could take on anything.
Her media criticism -- especially "Daniel Schorr" -- stands, even now, as some of the sharpest the nation has produced.
And The Most of Nora Ephron fails as a collection because, despite featuring 557 pages of Nora's writing, the collection refuses to include the essay that shows  how fiercely honest Nora was, the value she placed on truth, and that she didn't back down.

Ava and C.I. did their part to answer the community's call for more book coverage.  I should probably try to do something like that here.

But honestly, I lack the time and the energy.

I really did think this was a two year site and then I'd go dark as everyone else did.

Instead, I'm still here, still badly blogging.

Duncan Sheik should redo his "Barely Breathing" in my honor as "Badly Blogging."

'Cause I am barely blogging
And I can't find the air
Don't know who I'm kidding
Imagining you care

On the topic of music, you can stream Avril Lavigne's new video "Hello Kitty" here.

I'm neither pro nor anti Avril.

I know she had a "sk8ter" boy song over 10 years ago because I remember seeing it on the charts and in the papers.  I couldn't sing a song of hers if I tried.

That's not me picking on her.  I just don't know her.  I missed the Avril train.

I note the video because some love it and some hate it -- and some are saying it's racist.

So stream it and see what you think.

"The New York Times finds Russian spies in eastern Ukraine" (Alex Lantier, WSWS):
The New York Times has run a relentless campaign of lies and distortions backing US policy in Ukraine. This has included portraying the opposition in eastern Ukraine to the pro-Western regime in Kiev as proof of an aggressive Russian intervention threatening Ukraine, Eastern Europe and the world.
The newspaper’s article Monday, “Photos Link Masked Men in Eastern Ukraine to Russia,” purports to provide definitive proof that Russian spies are active in eastern Ukraine and manipulating events there.
The article begins: “For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as ‘green men’ have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across eastern Ukraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.
“Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces—equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February.”
There may or may not be Russian agents in Ukraine, a question the World Socialist Web Site is not in a position to answer. However, even if the Times article proved its charge that Russian spies are active in Ukraine—which, as we will see, it does not—the reader would have a right to ask: So what?
CIA Director John Brennan went to Kiev a week ago, though he sought to hide his visit from the public, as the Western-backed regime in Kiev prepared its crackdown on the eastern Ukraine protests. British intelligence has admitted that its agents are combing east Ukraine. Why is the dispatching of spies to Ukraine by Russia more threatening than the appearance of MI6 or of Brennan, who has played a leading role in running a global network of torture camps and a program of drone murder?

Barack really is all about war.  That's all he ever has to offer these days, threats and bullying.  He's brought no change -- let alone change you can believe in.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, April 22, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, campaigning continues, some Iraqi politicians turn to unconventional campaign aids, others are targeted, what are the conditions for being the President of Iraq (because those are conditions for being prime minister), Nouri continues to terrorize the civilians of Anbar, Daniel Ellsberg loves to play like he's brave (while showing no bravery at all in the present era), and much more.

Ammar al-Hakim is the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council.  Alsumaria reports that he declared today that Iraq has reached a turning point.  He was speaking in Babylon Province about the planned April 30th parliamentary elections.  He noted the coalition he'd joined with, the Citizens Coalition, wanted to build university to continue the production of knowledge and culture and to improve the quality of life for Iraqis in the streets and in their homes.  They are on the cusp, al-Hakeem declared, and they can proceed to a fair state with confidence in the judiciary, the government institutions and an equitable distribution of the walth.  Or they can remain with "red tape," with neglected cities, with expanding violence and the continual shedding of blood.

The status quo is Nouri.  That's what al-Hakim's speech is rejecting.

The status quo is Nouri and, whether it's out of personal elections hopes or not, politicians are rejecting him.

Sunday, Aswat al-Iraq quoted the country's Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi declaring, "Maliki does not regard himself responsible for the deterioration in the country, but he shoulders the greatest responsibility."  He also criticized Nouri's campaign stops this month saying that Nouri's main focus should be to "create a secured stability."  Osama al-Nujaifi is the Speaker of Parliament in Iraq and the head of the Mottahiddon list. NINA quotes him declaring today:

Our former attitude of patience that we committed to,was motivated to the preservation and unity of the nation and the people for fear of plans of sectarians who carry out a well-known regional and international schema .  But today we will firmly repeal and strongly deter the hand that turn the executive power to merely sentences of mass executions of innocent citizens , as well as the hand that transform army’s sacred tasks of defending people and nation’s boarders to a force to crush the people , to dispersion and humiliate citizens , violate the sanctity of the Iraqi family and imprison innocent women in detention and rape them stressing the necessity to detain such a hand in accordance with the will of the whole people,the will of the constitution and the will of the right.

Osama al-Nujaifi is the brother of Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi (one of the many politicians Nouri al-Maliki loathes and has attempted to have removed).  With Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in exile, Osama al-Nujaifi is the highest ranking Sunni politician in the Iraqi government.

Myriam Benraad (World Politics Review) examines the campaign field in Iraq and notes:

Three main forces are thus left competing within the Shiite political arena: Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, the Sadrist current and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), run by Ammar al-Hakim. These forces follow quite opposed ideological and political agendas and are themselves riddled with internal rivalries and disagreements.
Since Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision to withdraw from politics in February, debates have been ongoing as to the future of his movement. While some argue that Sadr’s abrupt move put an end to Sadrism, others believe that it is only a tactic for the popular Shiite leader to reposition himself ahead of the polls, both on the national scene and among his supporters. Lending credibility to the latter hypothesis, Sadr has remained politically active in spite of his announcement and is still the sharpest critic of Maliki, whom Sadr has called both a dictator and a tyrant. Sadr has also dissociated himself from other figures within his movement allegedly involved in cases of political and financial corruption.
[. . .]
The ISCI-dominated Citizen Coalition, which unites 18 other parties, ranked second in the 2013 provincial elections and today seeks to regain the standing it lost after its electoral failure in 2010. The list comprises a number of influential candidates, including Ahmed al-Chalabi. It primarily focuses its program on state reform, and has preferred a more moderate and conciliatory outlook in order to appeal to broader sectors of the Shiite population. It presents itself as a reliable successor to Maliki, but one that will not repeat the latter’s political mistakes. Contrary to Baghdad’s policy of recentralization of national political power, the ISCI favors more decentralization and hopes to garner greater support from Iran.

Benraad's take is that Nouri will win a third term (and that this will be bad for Iraq).  That is a prediction and many events on the ground argue against Nouri winning or even currently being in the lead.

We'll note this Tweet.

  • "This country has not faced up to what we did to Iraq and Afghanistan, any more than we have faced up to slavery." -Daniel Ellsberg

  • We?

    Daniel Ellsberg has never, ever, called out the current administration for demanding that Nouri get a second term as prime minister despite losing the 2010 elections to Ayad Allawi and Iraqiya.

    Daniel Ellsberg has never called The Erbil Agreement -- which went around the people of Iraq and gave Nouri a second term.  Daniel doesn't have that kind of guts.

    He's a fat, overweight and declawed cat barely able to make it to the litter box.  And if that's harsh, so is Daniel's embarrassing refusal to speak out for the Iraqi people and what they have endured since 2010.

    In other words, he should probably just roll over on his back and enjoy the sun because he has nothing to left to share.

    Dexter Filkins, infamous for his propaganda regarding the attack on Falluja in November 2004, has a long article at The New Yorker.  Like Ellsberg, he can't bring himself to mention The Erbil Agreement.  This excerpt covers that time period:

    In parliamentary elections the previous March, Maliki’s Shiite Islamist alliance, the State of Law, had suffered an embarrassing loss. The greatest share of votes went to a secular, pro-Western coalition called Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, a persistent enemy of the Iranians. “These were election results we could only have dreamed of,” a former American diplomat told me. “The surge had worked. The war was winding down. And, for the first time in the history of the Arab world, a secular, Western-leaning alliance won a free and fair election.”
    But even though Allawi’s group had won the most votes, it had not captured a majority, leaving both him and Maliki scrambling for coalition partners. And despite the gratifying election results, American officials said, the Obama Administration concluded that backing Allawi would be too difficult if he was opposed by Shiites and by their supporters in Iran. “There was no way that the Shia were not going to provide the next Prime Minister,” James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador at the time, told me. “Iraq will not work if they don’t. Allawi was a goner.”
    Shortly after the elections, an Iraqi judge, under pressure from the Prime Minister, awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government. The ruling directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution, but American officials did not contest it. “The intent of the constitution was clear, and we had the notes of the people who drafted it,” [Emma] Sky, the civilian adviser, said. “The Americans had already weighed in for Maliki.”
    But it was the meeting with Suleimani that was ultimately decisive. According to American officials, he broke the Iraqi deadlock by leaning on Sadr to support Maliki, in exchange for control of several government ministries. Suleimani’s conditions for the new government were sweeping. Maliki agreed to make Jalal Talabani, the pro-Iranian Kurdish leader, the new President, and to neutralize the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, which was backed by the C.I.A. Most dramatic, he agreed to expel all American forces from the country by the end of 2011.
    The U.S. obtained a transcript of the meeting, and knew the exact terms of the agreement. Yet it decided not to contest Iran’s interference. At a meeting of the National Security Council a month later, the White House signed off on the new regime. Officials who had spent much of the previous decade trying to secure American interests in the country were outraged. “We lost four thousand five hundred Americans only to let the Iranians dictate the outcome of the war? To result in strategic defeat?” the former American diplomat told me. “F**k that.” At least one U.S. diplomat in Baghdad resigned in protest. And Ayad Allawi, the secular Iraqi leader who captured the most votes, was deeply embittered. “I needed American support,” he told me last summer. “But they wanted to leave, and they handed the country to the Iranians. Iraq is a failed state now, an Iranian colony.”

    Regarding the theft of the 2010 election?  Some of us called it out in real time.  I, for example, don't give a damn about Iran or its interference or 'interference.'  I do, however, give a damn about free and fair elections.  The Iraqis risked so much to vote and the chose Allawi.  But the US government refused to back the democratic process.  This sent a message -- an alarming message in a country supposedly moving towards democracy, or in the early stages of democracy, or gifted with democracy or whatever damn lie the US government told that you want to hold onto.

    In the end, the White House didn't give a damn about democracy and this is 2010 so I'm talking about Barack.

    I have no use for Daniel Ellsberg.  I don't give a ___ that he did something four-hundred-and-fifty years ago. I'm living in today.  Dying is taking place today. And if he wants to talk about Iraq, he better find a spine. Otherwise, he needs to crawl back under his rock.

    Not everyone's so afraid to note The Erbil Agreement.  For example,  Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai pointed out earlier this year in [PDF format warning] "Iraq in Crisis:"

    US officials applauded the 2010 Erbil agreement, and said they were hopeful that such cooperative arrangement would provide a political breakthrough among Iraq’s leadership, and allow them to address the country’s problems. They pointed to the influence the US had in pushing for the outcome, including the adoption of an American suggestion that Allawi head a new, “National Council for Security Policy”.

    And  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) even reported on it in real time:

    Vice President Biden made numerous calls to senior Iraqi leaders over the past several months and U.S. officials directly participated in top-level negotiating sessions that lasted until just moments before the Iraqi parliament finally convened to approve a new power-sharing government Thursday, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. 

    And back in January,  Ned Parker (POLITICO) wrote an amazing must read on Iraq which included:

    It was the April 2010 national election and its tortured aftermath that sewed the seeds of today’s crisis in Iraq. Beforehand, U.S. state and military officials had prepared for any scenario, including the possibility that Maliki might refuse to leave office for another Shiite Islamist candidate. No one imagined that the secular Iraqiya list, backed by Sunni Arabs, would win the largest number of seats in parliament. Suddenly the Sunnis’ candidate, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, was poised to be prime minister. But Maliki refused and dug in. 
    And it is here where America found its standing wounded. Anxious about midterm elections in November and worried about the status of U.S. forces slated to be drawn down to 50,000 by August, the White House decided to pick winners. According to multiple officials in Baghdad at time, Vice President Joseph Biden and then-Ambassador Chris Hill decided in July 2010 to support Maliki for prime minister, but Maliki had to bring the Sunnis and Allawi onboard. Hill and his staff then made America’s support for Maliki clear in meetings with Iraqi political figures. 
    The stalemate would drag on for months, and in the end both the United States and its arch-foe Iran proved would take credit for forming the government. But Washington would be damaged in the process. It would be forever linked with endorsing Maliki. One U.S. Embassy official I spoke with just months before the government was formed privately expressed regret at how the Americans had played kingmaker.   

    Four years ago and Americans don't want to own up to what the White House did?  That action set in motion everything that followed -- as surely Bully Boy Bush's illegal invasion destroyed Iraq.

    And Myriam Benraad (World Politics Review) isn't the only one who fears a third term of Nouri al-Maliki will send Iraq into even rockier waters.  NINA reports:

    The spokeswoman of the Watania (National Coalition), Maysoon al-Damalochi confirmed that "if the current Prime, Minister Nuri al-Maliki won a third term, the National Coalition would withdraw entirely from the political process ." 
     Damalochi said in an interview with the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / its details will be published tomorrow, " al-Maliki will not be the head for the next government , because he will not get the full support in this election , as happened in the previous two terms ."

    Two things are worth noting here.

    First, Nouri told AFP in early 2011 that he would not seek a third term.  This was when protests were rocking the region and leaders were facing the threat of being toppled.  Protests were taking place in Iraq as well and there was an attempt to pass a law limiting a prime minister to two terms (a law Nouri publicly stated he favored).  Nouri was fearful of losing his hold on power so he made public statements.  Like so many other promises from Nouri, they were meaningless.  Today, no journalist appears willing to ask Nouri what happened to his promise?

    Second, Nouri may already be barred from a third term by the Constitution.  It prohibits the presidency and it may in fact prohibit those holding the offices of prime minister and  the presidency from third terms.

    We've gone over this before but let's go over it slowly.

    How does one qualify for prime minister?  Not the vote, how does the person whom the president will name qualify?

    Article 77 of the Iraqi Constitution explains that:

    The conditions for assuming the post of the Prime Minister shall be the same as those for the President of the Republic, provided that he has a college degree or its equivalent and is over thirty-five years of age.

    So what are the conditions the presidency?

    All agree this outline in Article 68:

    A nominee to the Presidency of the Republic must be:
    First: An Iraqi by birth, born to Iraqi parents.
    Second: Fully qualified and must be over forty years of age.
    Third: Of good reputation and political experience, known for his integrity, uprightness, fairness, and loyalty to the homeland. 
    Fourth: Free of any conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude.

    That's the Constitution, everyone agrees.

    So clearly the prime minister isn't limited to two terms?

    Not so fast.

    Article 72:
    First: The President of the Republic's term in office shall be limited to four years.  He may be re-elected for a second time only.


    That sounds like a condition.

    Because, for example, Jalal Talabani's been president for two terms now.  If he wanted to go for a third one, he couldn't.


    Because he's had two terms but what is the word for that?

    Why?  Because he's not qualified for the office as a result of having served two terms.

    What does Article 77 say:

    The conditions for assuming the post of the Prime Minister shall be the same as those for the President of the Republic, provided that he has a college degree or its equivalent and is over thirty-five years of age.

    One of the conditions to be President of the Republic is that you've not already served two terms in the office.

    Article 77 says the same conditions apply to the office of Prime Minister.

    Repeating, one of the conditions to be President of the Republic is that you've not already served two terms in the office.

    Can Jalal have a third term as president?  No.  He fails one of the conditions for the post because he's served two terms already.

    If you read the Constitution, it seems rather clear -- it's not as though you're reading tea leaves.  

    Although . . .

    Ibrahim al-Jibouri (Niqash) reports some candidates are resorting to less obvious means to win office:

    Since the early 1970s, magicians and mystics have become more popular and more professional in Iraq. They proclaim themselves semi-religious, calling themselves terms like sayid, sheikh or mullah, all of which denote that they are holy men in Arabic and Kurdish. But of course, with additional, special powers. One local sociologist believes that more locals were seeking help from the magic men in Iraq because of widespread poverty and illiteracy as well as a need to find some sort of hope, or spiritual alternative, after military conflict and economic crisis. Yet their clientele come from all levels of Iraqi society.

    Meanwhile another of Karbala’s candidates, Mahmoud Obeid, says he too is resorting to magic. He has run for office three times already and he’s never been successful – so this time he is enlisting supernatural aid.

    Interestingly enough Obeid sought the help of a magician in India. He says he travelled there and with the help of an Iraqi living there, met with a well known magic man. “I paid the man around US$4,000 so that he would do some rituals on my behalf,” Obeid explains. “But when we left his house we were attacked by a gang of three other men who stole all our money.”

    Obeid, who lost about US$8,000 on his Indian trip, is now using another method to try and secure his place in politics: He is also distributing free meals to poor families in low-income areas.  “This time I really hope I win,” Obeid says.

    Another Karbala candidate, Layla Flaih, says she only decided to compete in these elections because of superstition. “One of my colleagues reads coffee grounds and she advised me to run,” Flaih told NIQASH. “She said I would win. So I submitted my information to IHEC [the Independent High Electoral Commission], which runs the elections even though it’s caused a lot of problems with my family. My husband didn’t want me to run and he has threatened to divorce me.”

    Still on campaign news,  NINA reports the home of Shiekh Saeed Hammoud Derwish was blown up in Ramadi.  He's running for Parliament with the Unity of Iraq Coalition.  Parliamentary elections are supposed to take April 30th.  Already, it's been announced Iraqi refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote -- as well as Iraqis in parts of Anbar.  This targets Sunni voters as thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki well knows.  (Though the western press is so very kind to Nouri and avoids noting this or even addressing the issue of the refugees -- who will be voting in other countries.)   Alsumaria reports a grenade attack on a Mahmudiya (south of Baghdad) rally of Ahmed Chalabi supporters which left 1 child dead.  And the violence comes eight days before elections are supposed to be held.  NINA reports Ahmed Chalabi was present during the attack but was not harmed.

    Eariler today,  AP noted that a voting center in Daqouq Village was attacked late last night and 10 guards killed.  Is AP leaving out something?  They quote the deputy police chief Tothan Abdul-Rahman Youssef stating that the assailants had stated "they were there to carry out a search."  They stated that to the people they killed, guards in Kirkuk Province.

    Kirkuk knows all about searches and all about who's allowed.  Kirkuk has their own forces, they have Nouri's forces and they have the Peshmerge.  In good times, that's all they have.  In bad times, they have much more including the military.

    So if a group of men showed and stated they were there to conduct a search and the guards initially believed it, isn't it likely that the assailants were wearing some form of uniform?

    Likely and indeed true.  Belfast Telegraph reports, "The gunmen were disguised in military uniforms and told the guards at the polling station that they were there to do a search."

    Of course they did.  They had to.  Guards in Kirkuk Province know what someone who says they're conducting a "search" should look like.  So to pull that claim off, you'd have to be dressed for the part.

    And many conducting violence have dressed for the part.  This has been going on so long that we were making jokes here in 2006 that the greatest 'terrorist' in Iraq must be a seamstress since all these uniforms were being used by fakes.

    Dropping back to December 14th:

    Hey, remember how men in police uniforms or military uniforms commit kidnappings and murders in Iraq? And how outlets like AFP always rush in to insist that these weren't security forces?  Despite the long record of abuse at the Ministry of the Interior?
    Iraq Times reports that the security committee of Basra's Provincial Council announced today that 11 people had been arrested for kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery.
    The 11 accused?
    1's a police officer (lieutenant colonel)  the others are security forces working for the Ministry of the Interior or intelligence agency.
    They are accused of robbing homes and businesses -- sometimes in uniform -- and of going to homes and carrying out kidnappings while in uniforms and pretending they have arrest warrants.
    I'm searching in vain for Reuters, AP or AFP picking up on this story.
    They're damn happy to counter eye witness testimony of police and soldiers carrying out crimes by running with 'Police sources say these were al Qaeda wearing fake uniforms . . .'
    You would assume having pimped the line over and over, they'd be curious about what the Basra Provincial Council announced.

    No, they weren't.

    Many times, the uniforms worn in an attack are the uniforms the assailants wear every day.

    We'll probably go into more of that in the snapshot and the recent press insisting of 'they were militants in stolen uniforms' which bit the press in the ass.

    In the meantime, Alsumaria reports that the Wasit Provincial Council is publicly calling out Nouri's forces for arbitrary arrests in the province.

    Again, elections are supposed to be held in 8 days.

    EuroNews observes, "For a second day running a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq have left a trail of dead and wounded."

    Does "other attacks" include Nouri's War Crimes?

    They did continue today as he continued having the residential neighborhoods of Falluja bombed.  National Iraqi News Agency reports he killed 5 civilians today -- "including a woman and a child" -- and that ten more civilians were left injured. Anadolu Agency notes another round of bombings of Falluja housing neighborhoods left 6 civilians dead and five more injured.

    Alsumaria reports Hussain al-Shahristani (Deputy Prime Minister of Energy) declared today that hs is concerned about the innocent blood spilled in Falluja.  He says that Falluja cannot be stormed because innocents would be killed.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 police member dead and five more injured, a Tabaj roadside bombing left six Iraqi soldiers injured, Nineveh Operations Command state they killed 2 suspects, 1 person was shot dead in Tarmiyah, an Edhem roadside bombing left "four government employees" wounded north of Baquba, 2 Mosul bombs left fourteen members of SWAT injured, and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul (the man had been kidnapped two days earlier).  All Iraq News reports a Balad bombing left 3 farmers dead.

    Iraq has three recurring punchlines.  The first is "Nouri al-Maliki" and can be plugged into any conversation.  The second is "Jalal Talabani is better and will be returning to Iraq soon."  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  Since the end of December, every few weeks comes a claim of improvement and a claim that Jalal will return soon.  We noted that tired joke circulated yesterday via the governor of Kirkuk.  The third punchline?  "Erbil and Baghdad are close to an agreement."


    For background, you can drop back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot when ExxonMobil and the KRG's deal was upsetting Nouri.  That was November 11, 2011.  In the long space between then and now?  Nouri's whined and whimpered like a helpless puppy, whimpered for the US government to force ExxonMobil to stop doing business with the KRG.  July 19, 2012, when Chevron followed ExxonMobil's lead, Nouri was declaring that the US government was going to side with him on cancelling the ExxonMobil deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government, refer to that day's snapshot.

    Didn't happen (and Kristin Deasy of the Global Post was one of the few to question Nouri's claims in real time).  All Nouri could do was whimper and, for leadership, offer a variation the Dusty Springfield, classic "Wishin' and hopin'" (written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach).  He was reduced to wishin' and hopin' due to the fact that he never got an oil and gas law passed.  He had sworn he would.  He was required to by the Bully Boy Bush benchmarks of 2007.  Remember those?

    The oil and gas law was number three on the list of 18 benchmarks Nouri was supposed to implement in order to continue to receive US funding:

    3. Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources of the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner.

    Nouri had all but one year of his first term to get through an oil and gas law.  Then Barack got Nouri a second term and he still couldn't get through an oil and gas law.

    Most recently, Nouri's tantrums have revolved around a pipeline by which Kurds will supply Turkey.

    Seven years and the failure of leadership hangs on Nouri.

    Nouri's been attempting to use the 2014 budget as a means to blackmail the Kurdistan Regional Government over the oil issue since he failed to enact any oil and gas law.  We noted this blackmail in the February 21st snapshot:

    Meanwhile Isabel Coles and Jane Bair (Reuters) report that, despite claimes from Hussain al-Shahristani (Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy) earlier this week, the Kurds have not reached any agreement with Baghdad regarding exporting oil.  KRG spokesperson Safeen Dizayee is quoted stating, "Absolutely we have not reached any agreement to export oil via SOMO.  The dialogue and discussions are still under way."
    Nouri's failures are many.  He's attempting to coherce the Kurds on the oil by using the 2014 budget as a club.

    February 24th, Press TV reported:

    Baghdad is withholding wages for hundreds of thousands of Kurdish employees in an attempt to apparently punish the semi-autonomous Kurdish region over its controversial oil exports.
    “There is this mindset and now a continuation of this mindset whereby the central government does not believe in the existence of Kurdistan region. If we look back their opposition was contained to the parliament and the government but now we see that their opposition is directly towards the income of the people, which is the wages,” said Kurdish MP Umed Khoshnaw from the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
    Last week, Iraq's Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Roj Nuri Shawais called on Kurdish ministers in the Iraqi cabinet to resign if Baghdad refused to solve the problem.

    A lot of oil is at stake, a lot of money.  UPI notes the KRG released figures today stating the KRG "Ministry of Natural Resources created gross revenue of around $9.7 billion."  In February, he was offering them 7% of the  national budget if they export 400,000 barrels of oil a day. The 2014 budget?  Yes, that's not an error.  Nouri's government still doesn't have a 2014 budget.  It's April 2014 and they still don't have a budget.  Nouri's blackmail hasn't worked.  Nor has Hussain al-Shahristani repeated bleating that a deal was near.  Rudaw reports al-Shahristani has started another wave of dubious claims:

    In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy affairs, Hussein Shahristani, said that the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has given preliminary approval for Kurdish oil exports through Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO).
    He claimed that Erbil had said in a statement that the exports would be within the framework of Iraqi regulations, and that they had not begun yet due to technical reasons. Shahirstani said that Baghdad was waiting for Erbil to commit to that decision.
    However, there has been no indication from Erbil that such an accord has been agreed.

    Earlier this week, Rudaw reported, "Kurdistan Regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said Sunday that negotiations with Baghdad to resolve energy and budget issues have made no progress, and warned that Erbil's patience has limits."  Ali Unal (Daily Sabah) reports:

    According to oil expert Shwan Zulal from London-based Carduchi Consulting, more delays means it is more likely to see an independent crude export from the KRG. "Kurdish crude is accumulating and Baghdad is playing politics with the KRG's budget, not sending the right amounts of funds and so on," said Zulal. "The case for independent crude export to decrease reliance on Baghdad for paying the bills is becoming ever stronger and the more delays we see, the more likely that we see an independent crude export from the KRG. Nevertheless, the caveat will be U.S. support for the export, which has not been forthcoming."
    On the other hand, the expert believes a deal with Irbil and Baghdad is not likely in the coming days due to the Iraqi elections which will take place in May. "The deal with Baghdad does not look very promising, especially because the Iraqi elections are under way and the wrangling over the formation of the new Iraqi government will ensue in the coming days and months after the elections," said Zulal.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Back in the Cold War and we're stuck with Mark Shields

    "In Cold War Echo, Obama Strategy Writes Off Putin" (Peter Baker, NYT via ICH):

    "ICH" - "NYT" - WASHINGTON — Even as the crisis in Ukraine continues to defy easy resolution, President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.
    Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state.
    Mr. Obama has concluded that even if there is a resolution to the current standoff over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin, aides said. As a result, Mr. Obama will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, preserve whatever marginal cooperation can be saved and otherwise ignore the master of the Kremlin in favor of other foreign policy areas where progress remains possible.
    “That is the strategy we ought to be pursuing,” said Ivo H. Daalder, formerly Mr. Obama’s ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “If you just stand there, be confident and raise the cost gradually and increasingly to Russia, that doesn’t solve your Crimea problem and it probably doesn’t solve your eastern Ukraine problem. But it may solve your Russia problem.”

    Last summer, some of us warned exactly about this.  But the Cult of St. Barack was so great the disciple Katrina vanden Heuvel could overlook her long, long allegiance to the Kremlin and stay silent.

    "TV: Shields Overstays His Welcome By Several Decades" (Ava and C.I. The Third Estate Sunday Review):
    We argued last Sunday that it was time for Mark Shields to go.

    He only proved that more so on Friday.

    Forget politics, forget opinions for a moment.

    This is what 'analyst' Mark Shields offered:

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about what’s — what was the lead of our program tonight, Mark, and that’s — and that’s Ukraine, this surprise deal reached yesterday in Geneva between the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union, trying to defuse what’s been going on there.  Today, the reporting is all about these protesters in the eastern part of the country saying, we’re not going anywhere. Where is this headed?

    MARK SHIELDS: I honestly don’t know, Judy. I will say that it appears that Mr. Putin’s plan and the Russians’ plan is to partition Ukraine. And this certainly — they call it federalization, but it is a partition of — an eventual partition of sorts. Whether it’s to destabilize or delegitimize the elections of May 25, we don’t know. But Putin made a statement. He said, the Russian Federation Council — Russia’s Federation Council has provided the president with the right to deploy armed forces in Ukraine. Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself.


    MARK SHIELDS: He says, I really hope that I am not forced to use this right.

    That's from the official transcript.  And "(LAUGHTER)" indicates that they all laughed.

    Now it's America's turn.

    Again, forget politics for a moment.

    Shields states Russian president Vladimir Putin declared, "I really hope that I am not forced to use this right."  And you can find the quote at multiple outlets -- here for Jane C. Timm's MSNBC report.

    So presumably the quote is accurate.

    If the quote's right, what's the problem?

    "Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself."

    Yeah, "I" generally does refer to the person speaking.

    It's also what is known as "first person."

    Apparently Shields, Woodruff and David Brooks require a grammar lesson.

    These are first person subjective pronouns:  I (singular) we (plural).

    These are second person subjective pronouns:  you (singular) you (plural).

    These are third person subjective pronouns: he, she, it (singular) they (plural).

    When a person speaks of themselves in third person, they often use he or she.

    More often though, especially when it comes to the famous, they use their own name.  So, for example, Mark Shields speaking of himself in the third person might say, "Oh, no, Mark Shields has soiled his Depends.  Who will change Mark Shields?"

    Vladimir Putin -- despite the chuckles of Shields, Brooks and Woodrfuff -- did not speak of himself in the third person.

    Mark Shields is paid to provide 'analysis' and yet he no longer can even get basic facts right.

    Mark Shields really is worthless.

    It's really amazing, read Ava and C.I.'s report in full, just what 'analysis' Shields offered (they call him out on Keystone and Ed Snowden as well) and how he is paid for this.

    But, as they point out, PBS isn't trying for information, they're trying to manufacture consent.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Monday, April 21, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, campaign season heat up in Iraq, rumors swirl that Nouri's SWAT forces are robbing citizens of electronic voting cards, the need for international observers is noted, rumors repeat of Jalal Talabani's alleged recovery and that he's allegedly returning 'soon,' Nouri continues to attack Falluja civlians, and much more.

    April 30th, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections.  Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) report that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats. Some of those candidates are female.  Prashant Rao (AFP) notes:

    Despite a constitutional requirement that a quarter of all MPs be women, Iraq lags on key indicators such as female employment and literacy, and there is a bill before parliament that opponents say dramatically curtails women’s rights.
    Also at issue ahead of 30 April elections are high levels of violence against women, discrimination at the workplace and poor school attendance.
    “I did not expect that we will fight for women’s rights in this country,” said Inam Abdul Majed, a television news presenter and an election hopeful running in Baghdad. “I wanted to fight for better education, better services, better life conditions… But we are in this big trouble now, and it is a primary problem to be solved.”

    Omar al-Jaffal (Al-Monitor) also covers the topic of female candidates and he notes:

    Iraq’s Electoral Law requires the blocs participating in the elections to have at least one woman candidate for every three male candidates, which means at least 25% of all candidates should be women. The blocs usually have to search for women to fill this quota. However, the current electoral session stands out, due to the participation of several women academics, journalists and civil society activists. Most of them have a vision for change, unlike most participating male candidates who do not even have an electoral program.
    Contrary to the previous parliamentary terms, the current term is characterized by the candidacy of many women expressing more tolerance, openness and social and political awareness, be it through their clothing, topics or agenda. Many Iraqis have been talking about this on social media sites, and the current electoral session is bound to witness a unique parliamentary presence for Iraqi women.

    Iraqi women are strong and have to be because of the way their country is attacked and, especially sadly, because of the way so many people -- some men as well as some women -- work overtime to strip Iraqi women of their rights.  That includes Nouri al-Maliki.  It is astounding that he is not called out for being the man who refused to name a woman to his Cabinet in January 2011 (he even had Hoshyar Zebari briefly hold the spot as Minister of the Ministry of Women's Affairs -- that would Mr. Hoshyar Zebari for those unfamiliar with the Minister of Foreign Affairs).  From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:

    Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).
    Zainab Salbi (CNN) made this point again last year, "On the political front, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not appointed a single woman to a senior cabinet position, despite the fact women are guaranteed 25% of the seats in parliament by the constitution. The Ministry of Women's Affairs, a poorly-funded and mostly ceremonial department, is the lone ministry headed up by a woman."  When Nouri nominated his cabinet members he had 42 slots to fill (because he increased it from 31 in order to bribe people into supporting him).  He didn't fill all of them and we'll come back to that later in the snapshot.  But he couldn't think of one woman.
    And when he finally found a woman he could approve of and nominate to head the Ministry of Women's Affairs?  She was a gender traitor:  Dr. Ibtihal Kassid.  Al Mada reported on her in 2012.  She was the lovely lass, you may remember, who attacked equality, stated it was wrong and it "harms women."  So instead of defending the rights women in Iraq have by law, she spent her time trying to devise and then enforce a dress code for women -- until Iraqi women took to the streets to let her know just how insulting her actions were.  She also gave interviews defending Nouri's Cabinet composition -- never noting that his 2006 Cabinet had four women.  She gave interviews expressing alarm over women's rights in the KRG -- it was more trash from the trashy Kassid as she (a) tried to deflect from what she and Nouri were doing and (b) joined him in his 2012 efforts to demonize the KRG (the Kurdistan Regional Government is the four -- they upped it to four -- provinces in northern Iraq -- they are semi-autonomous, their president is Massoud Barzani).  

    A great deal of what Ibithal Kassid did in the last three years can be seen as prepping the public for an offensive bill.  Nouri forwarded it to Parliament.  There is confusion over its been withdrawn or not.  (Last week, different articles said different things.) On Wednesday's KPFA broadcast of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the controversial bill was discussed and it was stated that it had been pulled for now.  What's the bill?

    Shahram Aghamir: Last month the Iraqi Cabinet approved a new personal status legislation called the Ja'fari law which is named after the sixth Shi'ite Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq who established a school of jurisprudence in Medina in the 8th century.  This legislation has created an uproar among Iraqi women's rights and the civil rights community.  If approved, the Ja'fari law will abolish the current Personal Status Law 188 which is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world.  The new law will roll back the rights of women in marriage, divorce and child custody as well as inheritance.  It will lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 9 and boys to 15.  Who has initially proposed the law and what are the implications of this law for Iraqi women?  Malihe spoke with Iraqi women's rights activist Basma al-Khateeb who volunteers with Iraq's 1st Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Shadow Report Coalition as an expert and a trainer.

    (We included an excerpt of the discussion in last Thursday's snapshot, FYI,)
    Of the proposed law, Kevin Li (Latin Post) writes, "Women aren't the only Iraqis whose rights would be curtailed under the proposed law. Under article 63 of the law,  marry non-Muslims; those relationships would only be allowed for a temporary marriage for sexual pleasure."  Temporary marriage for sexual pleasure?  Yeah, I kind of think that's really more about discriminating against women still.

    Hanaa Edwar is an Iraqi activist who we frequently note.  Women, Peace and Security offers this bio of Hanaa:

    Hanaa Edwar is the General Secretary of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association (IAA)-a non-governmental organization, established in 1992, dedicated to improving the socioeconomic conditions of the Iraqi people. She is a founder of the Iraqi Women’s Network and serves on its Coordination Committee and is also a member of the High Preparatory Committee for National Congress of Iraq and the Presidential Committee of “The Iraqi Council for Peace & Solidarity.”
    Ms. Edwar participated in and led two successful campaigns in Iraq: the first demanding a repealing of order 137, aimed at nullifying the Family Law, issued by the Iraqi Governing Council and the second working to ensure a quota for women in decision-making positions. She has worked to organize several workshops for capacity building for Iraqi civil society groups, including the workshop on Women’s Political Electoral Participation in Iraq. Ms. Edwar has been working for many years on issues of violence against women. She was one of the founders of Arab Women’s Court in Beirut in 1996, with the aim of combating violence against women. In 2002, she founded “Beit Khanzad”, a shelter in Erbil for women victims of violence.

    Ms. Edwar currently serves on the board of “ASUDA”, an NGO based in Sulaimaniya City Iraq that acts against violence against women. She was a member of the Secretariat of the Iraqi Woman’s League (IWL), the oldest Iraqi women’s organization, founded in 1952. She is also a member of the Advisory Committee for Woman’s Affairs in Iraq. Ms. Edwar has participated in many international conferences and gatherings such as International Women’s Conference in Mexico 1975, International Women’s Forums Copenhagen 1980 and Nairobi 1985 and the World Conference Against Racism in Durban 2001.

    The Institute for Inclusive Security adds, "Ms. Edwar received a degree in law from Baghdad University in 1967."  Australian Arab Women's Dialogue explains, "In December 2011, the UN Mission in Iraq awarded her the appreciation certificate of Human Rights Defender for her work in promoting human rights in Iraq." International Civil Society Action Network notes she won the International Peace Bureau's Sean McBride Peace Prize in 2011 and was "named a Takreem Laureate on November 14, 2013."

    Hanaa Edwar's work and accomplishments have made her a keen observer of Iraqi politics.  Dexter Filkins (The New Yorker) notes:

    The recent violence, along with Maliki’s growing authoritarianism, has prompted many to imagine the future in the darkest terms. Hanaa Edwar, who runs a nonprofit called Al-Amal (Hope), told me over tea at her home that she had opposed the American invasion, even though she loathed Saddam Hussein. “I thought it was an Iraqi issue, not an American one,” she said. Still, the Americans could not have dreamed of a better friend. Threatened by insurgents and harassed by the government, Edwar built an organization that, among other things, trains women to campaign for elected office. She is proud of her work but ashamed of the Iraq that Maliki and his American sponsors have made. She recited a list of woes: “Divisions among people. The failure of public services. The corruption. The human-rights abuses. The judicial system? There is no judicial system, really. We are losing everything.”
    Three years ago, four pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested in Baghdad, and Maliki publicly described them as “criminals and killers.” Edwar strode up to him at a conference and unfurled a large photograph of the group. “Criminals and killers?” she said. “We have sacrificed thousands of people.”
    Wakhrooha,” Maliki barked to his aides: Take her away.
    I asked Edwar about the elections, whether change might save the country. She looked at me with tired eyes. “We are going into—how do you say it?” she said.
    “The abyss?” a colleague offered.

    “Yes—the abyss,” Edwar said. “Yes, yes, yes.”

    The abyss?

    Duraid Salman and Tarek Ammar (Alsumaria) report that the Independent High Electoral Commission notes that 85% of the new electronic cards that will be required for voting have been distributed.  85% and the elections are nine days away?  That doesn't impress.  And that's before we factor in Duraid Salman's report for Alsumaria about allegations that Nouri's SWAT forces are forcing voters in Diyala Province to hand over their election cards.  Meanwhile, the PUK stands accused of misleading voters.  Kirkuk Now reports, "The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the head of their list gave false information to the voters. The other parties reacted by claiming that the PUK is only trying to collect votes even under false pretenses."

    PUK?  That's a political party.  If it were last August, we'd be saying it's one of the two main political parties in the Kurdistan Region -- the way, in the US, you have the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. September 30th, that all changed with provincial elections:

    In other news, the KRG held provincial elections Saturday, September 21st.  Iraq has 18 provinces.  Three of them are in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.  As of last week 17 of the provinces had voted.  Only disputed Kirkuk was prevented from voting.   The exit polling for last week's elections predicted an upset for second place.  Early counts indicate that is correct.  Kamal Chomani (Foreign Policy) notes:

    On September 21, Iraqi Kurdistan held [provincial] elections, which for the first time in 22 years, have fundamentally altered the region's political landscape. Almost 3 million voters participated in the elections, with a total of 1,129 candidates competing for 111 parliamentary seats. While official results have been delayed by allegations of fraud, what the elections have made abundantly clear is the sweeping dissatisfaction with the Kurdistan Regional Government.
    From its emergence in 1991, the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq has been ruled by an alliance of two parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), headed by Iraq's ailing President Jalal Talabani. This duopoly was broken on September 21, when Talabani's party appeared to hemmorage votes to the Gorran (Change) Movement, which split from the PUK in 2009. Preliminary results announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission on Sunday in which the KDP got 71,9004 votes, Gorran 44,6095 votes, PUK 33,2386 votes, Islamic Union 17,8681 votes, and Islamic Group 11,3260 votes. Eleven seats are reserved for minorities and religious sects. Gorran's jump to the second-biggest party in the parliament marks a new era in Kurdish politics. 

    Isabel Coles and Sonya Hepinstall (Reuters) observed Saturday, "With 95 percent of the votes from the September 21 election counted, the KDP had 719,004 votes, Gorran had 446,095 and the PUK was in third place with 323,827.  Two Islamic parties placed fourth and fifth, with nearly 300,000 votes between them, followed by more than a dozen smaller groups."

    That was apparently shocking.  Use the September 30th link and go through the snapshot for some of the shocked reaction.

    Not everyone was shocked to see the PUK go down in flames.  The day before the elections, in the September 20th snapshot, we noted:

    If the PUK does less well than in 2009, there will be complaining.  If the PUK does really bad, there will be outrage.   The one who will face the most criticism may be First Lady of Iraq Hero Ibrahim Ahmed who has been reluctant to heed the advice of PUK leaders and assume the presidency in her husband's absence.  Could she?  Yes.  In the plan they outlined, Hero would not be "President Hero," she would be carrying out the will of her husband while he remains in Germany.  She would be voting by proxy.  She has refused that (just as she refused to take over the position outright) arguing that to do so would leave the impression that Jalal was unable to do his job.
    She's correct people would assume that.  But Jalal has now been out of the country for nine months.  Iraq's been without a president for nine months.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's recent revelation that he was refused when he attempted to visit Jalal in the hospital last April does not bode well for Jalal's health or his stature.  And it really makes the point for the posters in Arabic social media who compared the
    May 18th photos of 'healthy' Jalal to Weekend At Bernies. (In Weekend At Bernies, two men use Bernie's corpse to pretend Bernie's still alive.)
    If  Hero has the most to lose in tomorrow's vote, the one with the most to gain from the PUK suffering a big loss is Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari who has wanted to grab the Iraqi presidency for some time and attempted a move right after Jalal's stroke but was rebuffed by those in party leadership loyal to Jalal and Hero.
    Credit to Prashant Rao for covering the fact that Jalal's absence may negatively impact the PUK vote tomorrow but is no one going to run through what that means?  Probably not.  It appears AFP is the only western media outlet that's going to report on the KRG elections from inside the Kurdistan Region.

    And as we expected, it was Hero who paid the price.  She was the one who was criticized, she was the one who was forced to resign.

    They should have ousted her husband.  But he'd avoided them the entire year.  Why?

    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    He was the head of the PUK (he still is) and they had provincial elections and needed to meet with him for strategy but they were prevented from visiting him, they were refused.  His family ordered his image be used in campaign material.  That apparently didn't go over well with voters.

    Having suffered that humiliating defeat just months ago, being sidelined by Goran, how will they do in parliamentary elections?

    Last week were the rumors of mass defections from the PUK.

    They were true, the rumors.  Ghassan Hamid and Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) report that the Governor of Kirkuk (he's been very busy today) acknowledged there have been defections but lower-level ones, no one in leadership, the governor states, has withdrawn. And, he offers, Jalal remains the leader of the party.

    So don't expect PUK to get the most votes of the Kurdish parties running in the parliamentary elections nine days from now.

    Tarek Ammar (Alsumaria) reports that Kirkuk Governor Najmiddin Karim notes that he is in contact with Jalal's medical team and Jalal is recovering and will be home soon.  Soon?  They've been making this claim since December 2012.  However, if they could Jalal into the country on April 29th, it might give them a little bump at the polls.  (If Jalal could actually speak -- many don't believe he can due to the stroke -- and could do so on camera, they might get a sizable bump.)

    What is known is that Alsumaria reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met today with the US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Beecroft and the two discussed the need for transparency in the upcoming elections and the need for international observers."

    Alsumaria notes Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi told Sky News that Iran needs to stop interfering in Iraq's elections.

    Chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is seeking a third term.  Othman Ali (Daily Sabah) explains:

    Both Sunni Arabs leaders and Kurds have already signaled that they do not trust Maliki and are unwilling to submit to his centralist and authoritarian tendencies. If Maliki's re-election scenario exists, he will continue his marginalization of Sunni Arabs and even intensify the ongoing sectarian cleansing in Baghdad and several other provinces. This will drive Sunni Arabs into the arms of militant Sunni groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and will greatly weaken pro-Turkey moderate Arab leaders. Besides, the already deadlocked relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the export of oil will take a turn for the worst; the KRG will drift further away from Iraq.
    Recently, Masud Barzani stated to al-Hayat daily that he feels the political process has reached a dead end and he sees no hope for democracy with Maliki returning to power. His statement that "Kurds may resort to a referendum to redefine the relations with Baghdad and might take other options" is an implicit threat to declare independence. Barzani was also quoted as saying that Kurds feel Iraq's federalist constitution has been seriously compromised by Maliki. Therefore, the KRG wants to redefine relations with Baghdad on the basis of a confederation.

    Alsumaria reports KRG President Massoud Barzani met in Erbil with a delegation from the US Embassy in Baghdad today and declared that the security crisis in Iraq has reached a critical stage and that the security crisis stems from the ongoing political process.  NINA notes:

    A statement by the presidency of the Region, today said that Barzani met with a delegation from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, headed by an official Office of Security Cooperation Gen. Bednarek , which included the U.S. Consul in Erbil and a number of officials and military advisers at the U.S. embassy .
    The statement quoted Barzani as saying that the security situation in Iraq has reached a serious stage, and expressed hope that the election results will contribute in putting an end to the security problems in Iraq.

    Barzani is correct.  In as few words as possible, let's review.  The 2010 parliamentary elections saw Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law.  The US government made the decision to back the Bully Boy Bush-installed Nouri al-Maliki (despite his participation, while an exile in Iran, in attacks on US facilities) for a second term.  The voters had spoken.  How to give Nouri a second term?  Go around the Constitution with a contract.  The Erbil Agreement ended the 8-month stalemate in November 2010 and gave Nouri a second term in a contract the political leaders signed off on only because it guaranteed them certain things.  Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then stalled on implementing his parts of the deal.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and movement leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were publicly calling for him to hold up his end of the bargain.  The White House looked the other way and pretended they hadn't backed the contract, they hadn't brokered it and that they hadn't promised it had the full backing of the US government.

    This is where it all falls apart -- actually, it fell apart when the US government refused to back the Iraqi people and democracy.

    But Nouri used the contract to get a second term.

    This meant wasn't bound by the conditions of the Constitution.

    The way it's supposed to work is that the President of Iraq names someone a prime minister-designate and that person then has 30 days to form a Cabinet.

    Not a partial.

    It is the only thing the designate has to accomplish to become prime minister: create his or her Cabinet (which means nominating people to head the ministries and get Parliament to vote in approval of those nominations).

    Nouri didn't do that.

    Back in July of 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."   And he never did.

    He never did.

    Violence has increased in Iraq and Nouri's been without a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior (the position is over the national police) and a Minister of National Security.

    As violence rocks Iraq daily, don't you think Iraq could have used people in those posts?

    Let's review what Iraqi journalist Laith Hammoudi pointed out last month at the Institute For War & Peace Reporting:

    The bloodshed peaked in 2007-08. Many analysts cite the 2006 attack on the Shia shrine at Samarra as a start-date for this wave of violence. Thousands of people were killed and “disappeared” during this period, while tens of thousands counted themselves lucky just to have lost money and property rather than their lives.
    From the end of 2007, the level of violence dropped significantly as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent in the military to crush insurgent groups, starting with Basra in the south and moving up to Nineveh in the north.

    After a lull, the bloodshed took off again in 2011. The rate of attacks spiraled especially in the last five months of 2013, with a spate of car bombings that killed hundreds. These attacks have taken place in every province, but are most concentrated in Shia-majority urban centres.

    Laith Hammoudi knows what he's writing about.  And if you do the timeline, you're left with the reality that maybe the violence wouldn't have increased in 2011 (and continued to increase since) if the country had a prime minister who could get off his lazy and paranoid ass and nominate people to be the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of National Security.

    Violence increased with those positions empty.  Nouri should be called out for that.  He should also be called out for an entire term where those positions have remained vacant.  He is a complete failure.

    To ensure that this isn't the topic, he attacks Sunnis.  His favorite things is to bomb residential neighborhoods in Falluja -- War Crimes as he utilizes collective punishment.  These attacks continue. Alsumaria notes his bombing of Falluja's residential areas today has left 1 civilian dead and five more injured.

    Nouri's War Crimes are only part of the portrait of violence today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 taxi driver was shot dead in Hamrin, a Latifya shooting left 1 person dead and another injured, a roadside bombing in a "village north of Baquba" left two people injured, a Shirqat battle left 1 soldier and 5 rebels dead, a suicide bomber "at the northern entrance of Wasit province" took his own life and the lives of 21 other people ("police and civilians"), security sources say they killed 7 suspects in Jorfis-Sakhar, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul and another was left injured, security sources say they shot dead 6 suspects in Ramadi, security sources say they shot dead 20 suspects in all of Anbar Province today, a Mahalbiya car bombing killed 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, Baghdad Operations Command state they killed 9 suspects, 1 person was shot dead in Basra, a Qadisiyah roadside bombing left 1 teacher dead and four people injured, a Karrada Dakhel suicide bomber targeted a cafe and took his own life and the lives of 3 other people (twelve more were left injured), and a suicide car bomber took his own life and the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers at an Almadain military checkpoint (five more people were injured).  All Iraq News adds a Dijail bombing left two farmers injured, and 1 corpse was discover in Beiji, dumped in the Tigris River, "shot in head."  Alsumaria reports that one security officer who works for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the party of KRG President Massoud Barzani) was injured when assailants shot up his moving car, a Qadisiyah roadside bombing left two police members injured, and a Sadr City bombing left 4 dead and eleven injured. NINA notes the tolls increased on the Sadr City bombing: 5 dead and fourteen injured.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 79 dead and 112 injured on Sunday.  Yesterday was the Christian holiday of Easter. The Latin American Herald Tribune notes that Pope Francis issued a call, "The 77-year-old pope urged people to work toward reconciliation to end conflicts such as the ones in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, the Central African Republic and Venezuela."  All Iraq News adds that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi issued a statement, "I would like to congratulate the Christians on Easter and wish them to be safe and live in prosperity.  We assure to our Christian brothers that they are an important part of the Iraqi people and active in preserving its unity and they also represent real partners in sustaining security and stability in Iraq."

    Al Jazeera notes Sunday's "attacks included a coordinated assault on a private Shia college in Baghdad in which a suicide bomber with an explosives belt attacked the main gate while three militants attacked the back gate of the college. Four policemen and one teacher were killed and 18 other people were wounded."  Belfast Telegraph explains, "The dramatic assault on the college happened in Baghdad's eastern district of Ur."  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq issued the following:

    Baghdad, April 21, 2014 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, denounced the suicide attack on the Imam Kadhim University which took place yesterday in Baghdad. 
    “This is yet another example of sectarian based violence that the people of this country need to fight in order to bring this country to tranquility, and it is happening at a time when the Iraqi people are preparing to go to the polls in a few days”, Mr. Mladenov said. 
    "The target has been selected to incite sectarian hatred, with utter disregard for human life and religious values", added Mladenov. 
    “What happened today can only be described as a vicious and cowardly attack on innocent civilians”, the SRSG added. 

    “I would like to offer my condolences to the families of those who died and wish the injured a speedy recovery”, the UN Envoy said. 

    Let's move over to the US and drop back to the March 6th snapshot:

    Tom Brune (Newsday) reports, "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill to fundamentally revamp the military justice system for sexual assault victims hit a wall Thursday when it failed to advance in a procedural vote.  An unusually bipartisan majority in the Senate voted 55-45 to break a filibuster of her bill, but that fell short of the 60 votes needed to clear it for a final vote. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) lost two co-sponsors and couldn't win over undecided senators."  Donna Cassata (AP) points out, "Conservative Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky backed her effort, while the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, opposed the measure."

    And let's note the statement Senator Gillibrand's office issued:

    March 6, 2014

    Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered the following remarks Thursday following the vote on the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act, which despite having the support of a bipartisan majority of the Senate, fell five votes shy of breaking a filibuster.

    Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

    I want to first thank my colleagues who stood so strong and united in this effort from the very beginning. Your leadership truly made the difference to gain the support of a majority of the Senate.

    From the very beginning – this was never about being a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It was just the right thing to do – that people of good faith from both parties could unite around.

    And I want to thank the retired Generals, former commanders and veterans of every rank for making their voices heard – to make the military they love so dear as strong as it can be.

    And I want to especially thank all the survivors. We owe our gratitude to the brave survivors who, despite being betrayed by their chain of command, continue to serve their country by fighting for a justice system that will help make sure no one else suffers the same tragedy they did. Their struggles, sacrifice and courage inspire me every day.

    They may not wear the uniform anymore, but they believe so strongly in these reforms that for a full year now, they marched the halls of this Congress, reliving the horror they endured, telling their stories, in hopes that no one else who serves our country has to suffer as they did.

    Tragically, today the Senate failed them. Despite earning the support of the majority of the Senate, we fell five votes short of overcoming the 60-vote filibuster threshold. But we will not walk away, we will continue to work harder than ever in the coming year to strengthen our military.

    Without a doubt, with the National Defense bill we passed, and Senator McCaskill’s Victims Protection Act, we have taken good steps to stand up for victims, and hold offenders accountable.

    But we have not taken a step far enough. We know the deck is stacked against victims of sexual assault in the military, and today, we saw the same in the halls of Congress.

    For two full decades, since Dick Cheney served as the Defense Secretary during the Tailhook scandal that shook the military and shocked the nation, we’ve heard the same thing: “zero tolerance” to sexual assault in the military.

    But the truth is in the results, and that’s “zero accountability.”

    I always hoped we could do the right thing here – and deliver a military justice system that is free from bias and conflict of interest – a military justice system that is worthy of the brave men and women who fight for us.

    But today the Senate turned its back on a majority of its members.

    As painful as today’s vote is, our struggle on behalf of the brave men and women who serve in our military will go on. We owe so much to those who bravely serve our country, and I will never quit on them.

    For the men and women who sign up to serve our country for all the right reasons – only to be twice betrayed by their chain of command – if they can find the courage to make their voices heard to strengthen the military they hold so dear– we have to keep up this fight.

    We will continue to the fight for justice and accountability. That is our duty.

    There are some developments with Gillbrand's bill.  Sarah Blum (OpEd News) reports:

     Senator Gillibrand plans to bring her Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) back to the floor of the Senate this month. She currently has 53 co-sponsors and is looking for seven more. With the confirmation of Senator Max Baucus of Montana as our new Ambassador to China, we may see John Walsh, the Lt. Governor of Montana, appointed to the vacant Baucus seat. John Walsh is an Iraq veteran with 33 years experience in the Montana National Guard and is running for that seat, since Baucus announced his retirement from the Senate. In an Op Ed published by The Hill, Lt. Governor Walsh spoke out in support of Gillibrand's MJIA and said, "For generations, too many military leaders have believed that removing these responsibilities from commanders would somehow undermine their authority on other matters. I'm confident that is not the case."
    Our military and members of the Senate have been fighting against the very thing that can end this culture of abuse-- taking these cases out of the chain of command. Sexual assault cases are complicated, messy, and pose a serious conflict of interest for commanders. That conflict is evident in the Garry Trudeau's cartoon and in the military's own surveys which state that commanders were more interested in their own careers than the best interests of their soldiers. It is clear, from what I learned and wrote in my book Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military , that commanders career self interests and the protection and promotion of perpetrators are far more important to them than justice for women in the military. [ here; The Secretary Of The Army's Senior Review Panel Report On Sexual Harassment (Vol. 2) Pages 1 - Annex ]

    Commanders have a big job to do in the military and dealing with sexual assault cases is not only unnecessary, but also undesirable.   Let them do the job they do best--command their troops unhindered by conflict of interest. Why are they holding onto authority in sexual assault cases? I vehemently urge them to stop clinging to this level of control, let it go and instead be a positive model for courage, honor, and accountability. Have the courage to stand up for justice rather than fight to maintain an ugly culture that serves no one. Restore honor to a military that has been plagued with sexual assault scandals and whose image was irreparably tarnished. And most important of all-- be accountable for what you have created and fostered--demonstrate that you as an institution, can be as accountable as the soldiers you command and expect accountability from.    

    Lastly, this from Eric Zuesse (OpEd News):

    On April 20th, Sabrina Siddiqui headlined at Huffington Post,  "Bob Corker: 'Assad Was Wise' To Kill 1,200 With Chemical Weapons And 'Embarrass' The U.S." She didn't challenge the veracity of the Obama Administration's (and Republican Senator Corker's) charge that the sarin gas attack came from Assad's forces instead of from jihadist rebels who were trying to oust Assad. But, evil though Assad is, that charge against him is a lie, which was definitively nailed down as such, by Seymour Hersh, on April 4th headlining at the London Review of Books"The Red Line and the Rat Line:  Seymour Hersh on Obama, Erdogan, and the Syrian Rebels." The gas attack was perpetrated by Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan's allies the jihadist al-Nusra rebels, who are allied in Syria with Al Qaeda, against Assad.
    Earlier reports that had raised questions about Obama's lies on this matter were "George Washington" headlining 17 January 2014 at his blog, "Weapons Inspectors: Syrian Chemical Weapons Fired from Rebel-Held Territory"; [. . .]  and, even earlier, Matthew Schofield at McClatchy Newspapers on 21 August 2013, headlining, "New Analysis of Rocket Used in Syria Chemical Attack Undercuts U.S. Claims." The U.S. major "news" media have played along with the Obama lies on this (as on some other matters), just as they did with George W. Bush's lies about "Saddam's WMD" that didn't even exist, and that hadn't existed since 1998 when they were all destroyed (as I documented in my 2004 book, Iraq War: The Truth).

    I've pulled a link and credit.  It's to the man Mike refers to as "nutless" and that's because the man can't call out Barack so Zuesse's claim that "nutless" has "raised questions about Obama's lies" are actually incorrect. What "nutless" has done is blame everyone but Barack and he's done that for years now.  I'm sure Mike will write about it tonight at his site.