Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thug Nouri

Sabina e-mailed me "The coming disintegration of Iraq" from the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News and they note:

Nouri al-Maliki may have agreed to step down as prime minister of Iraq this month, but the damage he has wrought will define his country for decades to come. The stunning collapse of the Iraqi state in its vast northern and western provinces may be al-Maliki’s most significant legacy. After nine decades as the capital of a unitary, centralized state, Baghdad no longer rules Kurdistan, nor Fallujah, nor Mosul, and might never rule them again.
To his likely successor, Haider al-Abadi, al-Maliki will bequeath an Iraqi state that has reverted to the authoritarian muscle memory it developed under Saddam Hussein. But it will be a state that effectively controls not much more than half the territory Saddam did.
As al-Maliki and his loyalists succeeded in consolidating control of the government and pushing rivals out of power, they drove the constituencies of those they excluded — especially Sunni Arabs and Kurds — into political opposition or armed insurrection. Their drive for power alienated Iraqis across all communities from the central state whose wards and clients they had once been, leaving almost no provincial population trustful of the central government.

It really is amazing how Nouri got away with all of this.

And it's really amazing how C.I. was alone in publicly objecting to the tyrant getting a second term after losing the 2010 elections. 

It's really amazing how, back in 2010, C.I. could warn about all that followed.

And especially amazing how in that time period and since, the supposed antiwar "" could spend its time defending Nouri, praising Nouri, treating him like a hero.

Especially that disgusting Scott Horton (the dee jay, not the college professor).

Imagine if a group calling itself had taken a stand even 1/2 as principled as C.I.'s -- imagine how much sooner the US might have been forced to stop backing Nouri?

Nouri was a known thug and Scott Horton, Justin Raimondo, Jason Ditz and the other men of -- plus Kelley V -- looked the other way repeatedly.

Thug Nouri has done so much damage yet so few have called him out.  Even now, so few have called him out.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Saturday: 

Saturday, August 23, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue and we explore how the White House blew it in 2010 and has blown it again on Friday.

Pretend you were beat up every day by some other kid.  And the other kid got sympathy while you got scorn.

That's how a lot of Sunnis feel in Iraq and while feelings are neither right or wrong, the Sunnis feelings are more than understandable.

In the anti-Sunni world so many of us live in, Iraq's problems started a few weeks ago.  The last four years didn't matter, the targeting of Sunnis didn't matter.

Friday, a horrifying event took place and if it were known to be carried out by the Islamic State, the White House would be condemning it in strong terms -- as they have so many times before.

AP reports an attack on Imam Wais Village's Mosque has left 65 dead and sixty injured.   RT says it was an attack carried out by a Shi'ite militia and reminds, "In July, Shia armed groups executed 15 Sunni Muslims and hung them from electricity poles in a public square in Baquba. Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces killed more than 255 Sunni prisoners in retaliation for the killing of Shias by the Islamic State."  Jomana Karadsheh, Jason Hanna and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) report it this way, "Suspected Shiite militiamen opened fire Friday inside a Sunni mosque in northeast Iraq, killing dozens in an attack that appeared to derail the formation of a new government -- something world leaders have said is a must if the country hopes to defeat Islamic militants."  Abigail Hauslohner (Washington Post) notes, "It was the single deadliest assault in months on Sunni civilians in Iraq."

The US State Dept issued a statement:

Press Statement
Marie Harf
Washington, DC
August 22, 2014
The United States strongly condemns the vicious attack today on innocent men, women, and children inside a mosque in the village of Imam Wais in Diyala province.  The United States stands with the people of Iraq against this violence, and will continue to support all Iraqi citizens, from all parts of the country, as they work to root out violent extremists from any sector of society, and promote a religiously tolerant, diverse, and unified country, as envisioned in the Iraqi Constitution.  
This senseless attack underscores the urgent need for Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum to take the necessary steps that will help unify the country against all violent extremist groups.  In that light, we note Prime Minister-Designate Al-Abadi’s condemnation and call for unity in defiance of this attack.  We further call on all Iraqi leaders to complete the process of forming a new government on the constitutional timeline, and to stand united against violent extremist groups regardless of their cause or persuasion.  
We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of today’s senseless attacks, and call on the Government of Iraq to immediately investigate and bring to justice anyone shown to be behind these heinous crimes.  

Not good enough.

Marie started off strong.

But going with "senseless"?

Some reports have reduced the statement to Marie Harf only using "senseless to describe

"Senseless" isn't good enough.

You don't think the Sunnis have been persecuted in the last years, fine.  But at least acknowledge that they feel they have been persecuted.  (I agree with them.)

The worst attack they've seen in months and the term being run with is "senseless"?

After Thursday's briefing involving US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey used terms like "savagely" and "ruthless" and "barbaric."  And terms like these used over the murder of one person.

And  many people will read and hear of Harf's describing the attack on the Sunnis as "senseless."

People are paying attention.

Maybe not the State Dept or the White House.

In fairness to Marie Harf, she and and the State Dept are supposed to be int he business of diplomacy.

That said, did we all catch John Kerry's statement?

The US Secretary of State used the term "barbaric" in a statement yesterday:

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
August 22, 2014
Secretary Kerry spoke with the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari today to discuss the situation in Iraq. The Secretary expressed his strong support for the formation of a new government and encouraged the Foreign Minister to press all parties on the need work together and avoid preconditions to expedite the formation of a new and inclusive cabinet.
Foreign Minister Zebari acknowledged the importance of moving quickly with government formation and also expressed his sincere condolences over the brutal murder of James Foley by ISIL. Secretary Kerry offered his condolences to Foreign Minister Zebari for the countless Iraqis from all religious and ethnic communities who have fallen victim to ISIL’s barbaric attacks.
Both leaders recognized that Iraq is on the front line in the war against ISIL and that Iraq, the United States, the region, and the international community must stand together to face this threat. Mr. Zebari welcomed and noted appreciation for U.S. support in combatting ISIL.

'Savage' and 'barbaric' are not diplomatic terms.  I personally recoil when someone uses the terms to describe people (or to describe animals -- but I have no problem with "savage" and "barbaric" being used to describe the weather or, for that matter, the films of Michael Bay). But these are the terms the administration has trafficked in and the world  -- and specifically Sunnis around the world -- are not necessarily going to put on their decoder rings to decipher why DoD is calling Sunnis who attack 'savages,' 'ruthless' and 'barbaric' while when Sunnis are attacked by presumably Shi'ite assailants, the attacks are lamented with a sigh as 'senseless.'

Iraq is in a very unstable state currently.  For the country to come together, all the players are going to have to feel that they are treated fairly and will be treated fairly.

The US-installed tyrant Nouri al-Maliki is hopefully on his way out the door (he's never truly gone until he's in the ground so I'll breathe easy only when a new prime minister is named).  Installing him in 2006 was a mistake on the part of the Bully Boy Bush administration.  (You can use a stronger term than "mistake," I'm trying to move quickly and trying to be as kind as possible  -- or as kind as I possibly can be.)  Barack Obama's administration insisting he remain in 2010 -- after he lost the elections to Iraqiya -- was worse than a mistake.

That spat on the Iraqi voters and also sent the message that elections don't matter and that all the talk of 'democracy' -- from two consecutive US administrations -- was nothing but hollow talk.

Insisting the loser of an election -- a polarizing figure -- get a second term the voters did not give him is not instilling faith in democracy nor does it help democracy take root.

The 2010 decision, ignored by so many in the US, is not a minor thing and will figure greatly in the history of Iraq.  It's also why the violence got to where it did.

Nouri didn't win the election.  His State of Law came in second to Iraqiya.  Though some try to spit polish Nouri and his State of Law, they were a sectarian coalition.  They were a new grouping -- Nouri refused to run as part of Dawa, his political party, much to Dawa's dismay -- and they talked 'security' which was code for "We kill Sunnis."  You can pretend it meant something different the way so many pretended in the 1988 US elections that invoking Willie Horton's name wasn't about appealing to fear and, yes, sending a message of racism.

Siderbar: Horton was an African-American who was sentenced for life -- for murder -- but given passes as part of a furlough program and, on one furlough, he didn't bother to return but did commit a series of crimes. Criticizing the program, as Al Gore had, was not appealing to racism.  Making Horton the poster boy of the program might not have been racism.  No one was lying about the facts involved.  The way the controversy was sold via ads and comments from George H.W. Bush's campaign was an appeal to racism.  And, to be clear, I'm not calling George H.W. Bush a racist.  I have no idea where he stands but would hope he's not. But the thing about racism is that it can be used by a lot of people who aren't racists.  They can do that by trafficking in it or by being silent about it.  They can do it any number of ways.  They can do it by, in 2014, creating a new sitcom for Netflix -- yeah, I'm talking about Jane and Lily's sitcom -- and refusing to cast leads of color -- Martin Sheen has passed for Anglo White his entire career so don't toss out that he's Latino.  There is no reason in the world that two preachy liberal women who are played by Jane and Lily couldn't have married an African-American man. I believe the current president of the United States is the son of an interracial couple.  He's 53-years-old and Jane can't catch up with the times -- the time of 53 years ago?   Instead, the show is an elderly -- yeah, I said it -- white bread White cast and why the 'new' world of the internet needs that is beyond me.  I have problems with the White at the top of the pyramid structure of Orange Is The New Black -- the White 'missionary' teaches every one of color in a manner not that far from a Shirley Temple movie -- but at least Orange does offer a diverse cast.  Jane's show is so White it could be on CBS.  Sidebar in a sidebar: Jane is an active producer of the show with a long history of producing, Paula is producing as well -- Paula, what would you mother say about your all White productions?  Lily Tomlin is a producer.  Why am I not calling out Lily?  Lily is producer to protect herself.  That's all.  Lily's not going into any production where she's going to be at the mercy of others.  She's not an active producer but she's got the title and position to protect her character and her art.  That's why I'm not calling out Lily.  (If her character or performance is a mess, I will call that out when Ava and I review the show.)

Back to State of Law, Nouri used coded messages to appeal to Shi'ites.  By contrast, Iraqiya, led by Shi'ite Ayad Allawi, was a mixed coalition with Sunnis (such as Osama al-Nujaifi, the previous Speaker of Parliament, and former Deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq) and its success built on the 2009 elections which found the Iraqi people moving away from identities of division and towards a national identity as Iraqis.

That was an incredible shift and one that should have been encouraged by world leaders.  It should have been encouraged and fostered.  2010 was a time of such hope.

Instead, this got shoved aside when the White House decided Nouri must remain prime minister.

If we're all honest for a moment, maybe we can all agree the above US response in 2010 was at least a mistake.

But it got worse.

Nouri didn't win.  Even with his kangaroo court verdict, he didn't win.  So the US brokered a legal contract, known as The Erbil Agreement.  This contract was signed by the leaders of all the political blocs -- including Nouri -- and came after Nouri had brought the government to a standstill for over 8 months -- Parliament wasn't meeting, nothing was happening.  The US officials went to the leaders of various political blocs and told them Nouri could hold out for another 8 months so, be the bigger person, do the right thing for the country, just give him a second term and we'll do it with a contract and since you're giving up a lot by letting a loser have a second term, we're going to write something into this contract for you and the people you represent.  So Iraqiya was promised, among other things, the head of an independent national security body, the Kurds were promised Article 140 of the Constitution would finally be implemented, etc.

The White House swore this contract had their full backing.  November 11, 2010, the day after it was signed, Parliament finally met.  Some idiots and liars say Iran -- in mid-October -- ended the political stalemate.  Big lie.  Parliament only finally met after The Erbil Agreement.  Check the archives, learn  what you're talking about because the lies are helping no one. If it's pride that's forcing them to stick to a lie, let it go.  We all get things wrong.  On this issue, I was an idiot myself and thought the Erbil Agreement was a supplement to the Constitution.  It was not -- I was big time wrong in real time -- it was a circumvention of the Constitution.

Those new to the issue may be thinking, "C.I., a contract was used to settle the elections.  It's no different than the backroom deals political parties used to have in the US during the early part of the 20th century."  Maybe so but those promises tended to stick.

Nouri signed a contract -- a contract the White House brokered and backed -- to get a second term and then refused to honor the contract.  At first, he made it sound as if it would be a few weeks.  By summer 2011, the Kurds, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya were publicly demanding Nouri implement The Erbil Agreement.  He refused to do so.  In March of 2012, leaders -- of the groups just named and other groups including ISCI and its leader Ammar al-Hakim -- began fairly public discussions about what to do.  A big meet-up took place in April 2012.  It was decided they would move to a no-confidence vote in Parliament.  Signatures were collected and all the steps outlined in the Constitution were followed.  As signatures were being collected, Moqtada stated publicly that Nouri could end the effort by implementing The Erbil Agreement.  Nouri refused to do so.

As May was winding down there was hope among many Iraqis that fairness was going to be restored.

Then the petition was handed to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani for him to, as the Constitution dictated, officially present it to the Parliament.  Then a vote would take place.

Never happened.

Under pressure from the White House*, Jalal announced he would check the signatures.  This was a petition signed by MPs (Members of Parliament).  Jalal didn't just ask, "Did you sign it?" He asked, "Would you still sign it if it was presented to you today?"  That's not how a petition works.  But Jalal claimed a number backed out -- wouldn't say who -- and said he couldn't present it to Parliament and 'screw all you people insulting me and members of the press calling me a coward, I'm off to Germany for life threatening surgery!'

It emerged Jalal actually had elective knee surgery.

But it let the coward hide out and avoid the fall out for his decision and action.  He would sneak back into the country in September 2012.  Maybe as a karmic 'reward,'  he suffered a stroke and did end up in Germany.  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 returned to Iraq in July of this year.

*Iran forced Jalal's hand!!!!!  No.  Iran was not the player on that issue, the US government was.  Iran was the player on the issue of Jalal remaining president.  The US government told Iraqi politicians they had no opinion on replacing Jalal -- he should have been replaced a month after his stroke -- and were staying out of the matter.  The Iranian government did not take a pass.  That is why when Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, First Lady of Iraq, spent almost as much time in Iran as she did in Germany -- she repeatedly darted in and out of Iran to plead with Shi'ite leaders to continue to back Jalal as president despite a health crisis that left him unable to govern or speak.

And we're all clear that he can't speak, aren't we?

He can make some noises but nothing that the public would turn out for.  That's why his big return was a big bust.  A lot of hoopla and no Jalal talking to the public.

The Talabani family lied to -- defrauded -- the people of Iraq who would have been loudly demanding a president had they not been repeatedly told Jalal was recovering and that he'd be back in a matter of months.

The Iraqi people had voted divisive 'leader' Nouri out of office only to have the US insist he get a second term.  The contract that outlined a power sharing government was tossed aside by Nouri and the White House didn't say a word. And then things really got bad.  Which is why the Iraqi people went back into the streets in December 2012 to launch protests that would last over a year.

Nouri's response to the peaceful protests?

He called them 'terrorists' and had his security forces, attack them, arrest them and kill them.

None of this would have happened had the White House not demanded he get a second term.

So now the White House is 'involved.'  Nouri is said to be gone (again, only when he's in the ground).  And it's 'evil' and 'bad' and 'barbaric' Sunnis, to hear the White House talk.

But Friday comes a spectacular attack, apparently carried out by Shi'ites, against Sunnis -- against Sunnis who are at a house of worship -- and the administration can't speak in the strong language they use when decrying Sunni assaults?

The White House swore they would stand by The Erbil Agreement.

When the Parliament finally met, Nouri said The Erbil Agreement would have to wait a little bit. Ayad Allawi walked out.

Remember that?

From the November 11, 2010 snapshot:

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call." 

Empty words from Barack.

The position was never created and the White House stayed silent.

Nouri broke the contract that the White House brokered and the White House did nothing.

It betrayed the people they gave their word to.

And that's especially why the attack on the Sunnis yesterday should have resulted in strong words.

A friend in the administration used to get so ticked off with what I did here -- noting the government of France issuing this or that statement of support or the government of England or both and noting how the US government was silent.

They were just words -- insisted a member of an administration that's offered little more than words since being sworn in back in January 2009.

But words are followed.  The Iraqi press?  Most of them do not have a budget that allows a US correspondent.  So when reporting on US reaction, they are looking to statements and briefings that the administration publishes.  It does matter.  A statement ignored by the US press, for example, may lead on Iraqi TV broadcasts and be front paged on many Iraqi newspapers.

(The same friend now gets it -- it took long enough -- and regularly asks that we note this or that.  When we can, we do.)

Friday's horrible assault was the chance for the US government to show they were not taking sides, that they supported all Iraqis.  That chance has now pretty much passed.

And to be fair to Marie Harf, she is not the entire administration.  She is a spokesperson for the State Dept and, certainly, she spoke more wisely on Friday than her boss (John Kerry) did.

It's a shame John Kerry had nothing to say about the attack on the Sunnis at the mosque.  It's a shame Chuck Hagel had nothing to say -- Chuck without words?  Who knew that was possible?

But what was said and what was not said did register in Iraq.  It's now going to be that much harder for the US to be seen as an honest broker in Iraq -- and at a time when they really need to be seen as that.  Sunnis have not just announced a walkaway period from government talks (hopefully a brief one) but they've also now seen that the US government is gravely concerned when Shi'ites are attacked but less interested when the victims are Sunnis.

the wall st. journal
sam dagher
ben lando
chelsea j. carter