Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Putting it mildly

The editorial board of the Kansas City Star wades in on Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal and notes:

Still, Clinton’s handling of them was sloppy and risky. She of all people knew how easily personal email systems are compromised by spies and hackers. And she of all people should have foreseen how eagerly her opponents would seize on this political vulnerability.

The very fact that we're still dealing with her e-mail scandal goes to how unqualified she is to be president.

She has refused to answer questions.

She has stonewalled.

She has mainly refused to take accountability.

And, of course, she has lied.

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

Monday, August 17, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi's so-called reforms appear to be less and less about government corruption, Nouri al-Maliki hides in Iran as calls mount for him to be put on trial, and much more.

Starting in Iraq where forever thug and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki remains absent despite the focus on him.  Emma Gatten (Independent) reports:

Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki could face trial over the fall to Isis of Iraq’s second city of Mosul, which led to the declaration of its caliphate last summer.
Mr Maliki is one of around 30 senior officials named in a report that has been approved in parliament. It calls for Mr Maliki to face trial for what it says was negligence in choosing corrupt officers who failed to respond to the threat adequately.
“No one is above the law and accountability to the people,” said parliament speaker Salim al-Jaburi in a statement after receiving the report, which was passed by a show of hands in parliament. 

Al Mada reminds that a little over a year ago, while still prime minister, Nouri was insisting the fall of Mosul was due to foreign countries and their leaders but Parliament's investigation discovered that the chief issue was a lack of troops present in Mosul followed by the conflicts between political officials.  Euronews adds, "According to the report, Maliki had an inaccurate picture of the
threat to the northern city because he chose commanders who engaged in corruption and failed to hold them accountable."
It was June 2014, when the Islamic State took over the city.  Don Melvin (CNN) offers, "Mosul, a city of more than 1 million people about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Baghdad, is one of the most important cities in northern Iraq. Its fall to the terrorist group ISIS was followed by disastrous consequences for residents in the area."

Mosul remains under the control of the Islamic State to this day.

Kitabat reports that some members of Nouri's State of Law coalition are threatening to walk out on the Parliament if Nouri is charged with anything and that Speaker of Parliament Saleem al-Jubouri held a press conference today to note that no names could be stricken from the report and no one was above the law.

Nouri left over the weekend for what was supposed to be a brief visit to Iran -- a visit that's already expanded to days and has many wondering what exactly he is up to?

  • Thts an insult to PM. Thy should have respected the reforms&supported wht benefits -not their interests.

  • Now that he's in Iran, Nouri's become quite the chatty Cathy on the topic of reforms or 'reforms' proposed by Haider al-Abadi.  While he praised these reforms while he was in Iraq, he's since changed his opinion.  Nour Malas, Ali A. Nabhan and Ghassan Adnan (Wall St. Journal) report:

    Mr. Maliki, who initially gave a statement of support for the government overhaul, has since appeared to question some of the measures. In local television interviews, he called the moves to eliminate the vice presidency posts and a call to allow the prime minister to replace local governors "unconstitutional."

    What will happen to Nouri?

    Maybe nothing at all.

    Aziz Alwan (Bloomberg) reports:

    The case isn’t likely to be raised to “the level of high treason,” and it’s too early to say what will happen next, according to Hameed al-Fayath, a Baghdad-based political analyst.
    Though Maliki’s popularity is suffering, “he still has many supporters all over Iraq, especially among the Shiite militias that are fighting Islamic State right now, the security forces, and in politics,” he said.

    Nouri has much to answer for.  Last night, we noted that the press was overlooking the obvious with regards to the findings by the Iraqi Parliament on the 2014 fall of Mosul: That then-prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki had refused to nominate anyone to be in charge of the security ministries throughout his second term (2010 - 2014).

    Back in July, 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."  

    He never filled them. 

    In January 2011, when they were still vacant, Ayad Allawi (the winner of the 2010 elections) stated they wouldn't be filled.  The world press, always full of something other than wisdom, was insisting that, in a few weeks, Nouri would nominate someone to hold the posts.

    Allawi said Nouri wouldn't and that this was a power grab.

    Allawi was correct.

    For four years, Iraq was without heads for the security ministries.

    Which is part of the reason the military rise of the Islamic State isn't a surprise.
    Sunday, Haider's actions began to more closely resemble a power grab and to be less and less about reforms as he announced he would be  hacking away at the Cabinet -- with no one pointing out that the Constitution does not give him that power.  Reuters states he's taken the Cabinet from 33 ministers to 22.  Among the posts eliminated?  The Minister of Human Rights and the Minister of State for Women's Affairs.  (CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq also notes thee two posts are being eliminated.)

    In his announcement, Haider claims that he has the power under Article 78 of the Constitution.

    That's interesting.  Article 78 of the Iraqi Constitution:

    Article 78: 
    First: The President of the Republic shall take up the office of the Prime Minister in the event the post becomes vacant for any reason whatsoever. 
    Second: The President must designate another nominee to form the cabinet within a period not to exceed fifteen days in accordance with the provisions of article 73 of this Constitution.

    Where does that give Haider the power to eliminate ministries?

    In his announcement, he notes that he is cancelling the following: the Minister of Human Rights, the Minister of State for Women's Affairs, the Minister for State for Provincial Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs and the Minister of State while merging a number of ministries.
    This morning, we noted of the move to eliminated the Women's Affairs ministry, "If Haider's moving to end corruption, if that's why he's doing this, how much corruption is ended by abolishing a ministry that's never had a real budget?"
    Kurdish MP Muthanna Amin today also noted the nonsense and the fakery.  Rudaw reports:

    “The prime minister has decided to close the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, whose monthly budget is only 150,000 Iraqi dinars (about  $120,” Amin claimed, saying it had little impact on reducing government expenses.
    Amin said the ministry comprised of only three rooms in the same building as the council of ministers, without mentioning other costs, such as salaries and security for ministry officials.
    Yet the western press is presenting these moves as a fight against corruption.

    Press TV: How far do you think these measures that are being taken by Prime Minister al-Abadi will go in combating corruption in Iraq?

    Jawad: Basically, he has not started on the corruption, yet. This is a very important demand of the demonstrators on the streets in Baghdad and the southern provinces and everywhere in Iraq and these demonstrations are increasing by numbers every week.
    In fact, there is a continuation of the certain demands by these demonstrators, which started actually on the ground of improved services, the lack of infrastructure, electricity, water supplies and so on.

    One of the few serious analysis offered in the western press is by Zaid al-Ali (Washington Post) who explains that the plan is a rerun of past plans, it goes against the Constitution (the President of Iraq picks the vice presidents and the prime minister has no say in the issue) and Haider's own unimpressive track record.  Excerpt:

    The political context is also hard to ignore. Abadi’s plan was conceived in the midst of an ongoing power struggle among Shiite political circles. It is no secret that Vice President al-Maliki has been vying to undermine his former colleague since he was ousted from the prime minister’s position last year. What is less well known is that he and several other political forces (all of which are closely aligned to Iran) have been mounting a serious challenge to Abadi’s authority over the past few weeks. In that context, the key proposal to dissolve the vice-presidents’ positions is not so much an attempt to cut down on government bureaucracy, as it is to weaken a political rival.

    And while few will dispute that al-Maliki should be sidelined, it is worth noting that al-Abadi’s own record is not particularly inspiring either. During al-Maliki’s entire tenure as prime minister, al-Abadi never appeared to differ from his party colleague on any important policy matter. He also does not have any major accomplishments to his name from his own eight-year tenure in parliament.

    Thomas Gaist (WSWS) also expresses skepticism over the reforms or 'reforms' so much of the press has gone giddy over, "Presented in US media as 'anti-corruption' measures, the reform proposals actually represent a major step toward the dissolution of the unified Iraqi state and the breakup of Iraqi society into several autonomous statelets."

    Meanwhile, Yamel Wang (Xinhua) reports, "A total of 52 people were killed on Monday in bomb attacks, including three suicide bombings, and air strikes targeting Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq's western province of Anbar, provincial security sources said."  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 215 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    Iraq was briefly noted in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson John Kirby.

    QUESTION: Still on the Kurds. I’d like to ask a question about Iraqi Kurdistan, where the tensions are really mounting over the future of President Barzani, whose term is coming to an end this Thursday.

    MR KIRBY: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Brett McGurk tweeted this: “In Kurdistan region to urge unity in face of serious ISIL threat and in honor of 1,200 Peshmerga martyrs. The terrorists feed on division.” This statement by Brett McGurk, this tweet, has been read by many people in Kurdistan as an indirect support for President Barzani to extend his term, to stay in power.

    MR KIRBY: To extend his term?

    QUESTION: Yeah, to stay on – to stay on in power.

    MR KIRBY: I think that would be a mistake to read it that way.

    QUESTION: So --

    MR KIRBY: In fact, I don’t think it’s a mistake; it’s a mistake to read it that way. The Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s presidential – that presidential issue is an internal political matter, and this is a decision for the people and parties of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region to make together.

    QUESTION: But are you calling for a peaceful transition – peaceful and democratic transition of power as his term is coming to an end – his last term – by Thursday?

    MR KIRBY: We aren’t taking a position – this is a – this presidential issue is for the people of the region to work together and to decide and to determine. We’re not taking a position on that.

    QUESTION: You’re not calling – you’re not willing to call for a peaceful transition of power, which you often do in regard to other countries when somebody’s term is coming to an end.

    MR KIRBY: It’s not a country. It’s not a country.

    QUESTION: A region.

    MR KIRBY: It’s a region of Iraq. We’re not going to get involved in internal Iraqi politics. Obviously, separate and distinct from that, wherever there are elections and transitions of power, whether it’s from one individual to another or one party to another, we obviously want to see that be done peacefully and securely, fairly, openly, transparently, and credibly, obviously, but we’re not taking a position on this. And Brett McGurk was certainly not inserting himself into that process in any way whatsoever.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MR KIRBY: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up?

    MR KIRBY: You guys always go together.

    QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) So what is your level of involvement in this issue? Because there are two things that you always – well, one, which is the democracy – you just said it – you always support the free and fair election, but this is not about election. This is about somebody --

    MR KIRBY: I understand that.

    QUESTION: -- his term came to an end.

    MR KIRBY: That’s why I made the distinction.

    QUESTION: Yeah, this is – his term came to an end and according to the laws that he has to step down, but it seems he will not. But this is one part. The other part is that this region is one of the effective partners. They are – they’re part of the international coalitions to fight ISIS, so this situation will have an impact on that. So what is your level of involvement in this? I know Ambassador McGurk and his delegation will be there for a few days and talking to Kurdish officials, and he tweeted several times on this specific issues, the crisis. So there should be a level of involvement. Like, you did it in Baghdad – that there was not government when ISIS came, was close to Baghdad, then you kind of helped the Iraqi parties to form the new government. This is kind of the same situation.

    MR KIRBY: Well, look, I mean, while there, Brett McGurk met with President Barzani and the leaders of all the major Kurdish political parties. Not atypical when he goes to that part of Iraq. What he went for and what he did was reaffirm the U.S. commitment to continue cooperation with Iraqi Kurdish forces to fight – in the fight against ISIL, and he commended the regional government and their officials there for their coordination with the Government of Iraq – their coordination – and coalition members in that same fight. And of course, he praised the contribution of Peshmerga forces, which have been very capable in the field. That’s it. He did not go to insert himself into an internal political matter, and he’s not doing that.

    QUESTION: So last one on that: Does that mean that you are not concerned about any way of political transition will happen, maybe will cause instability in the region? That means --

    MR KIRBY: We’re not – I mean, I love your attempts to continue to get at the same issue. I think I’ve answered the question. We’re not inserting ourselves into this internal political matter. Separate and apart from that, we always want to see – whenever there’s a transition in government, we want to see that responsive to the people; free, fair, credible, transparent. We’re not inserting ourselves in this, okay?

    With regard to the issues above, Anadolu Agency reports:

    The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s judicial council has extended the term of KRG President Masoud Barzani -- which had been set to expire on Thursday -- for another two years, according to the KRG’s Justice Ministry.

    Ministry spokesman Nariman Talib told Anadolu Agency that the move would be decided at an extraordinary meeting of the KRG’s parliament slated for Wednesday.

    al mada