Friday, April 25, 2014

What Passes For Progress

What Passes For Progress

That's from January 9, 2011,  "What Passes For Progress." C.I. wrote:

Moqtada al-Sadr declares, "Approximately 4 years ago, as I called for attacks on US soldiers, I was forced to leave Iraq. Now I am back and calling for attacks on US soldiers. That is progress." Barack declares, "Oh yeah, that's progress." Nancy Pelosi agrees, "Yes, Mr. President, it's a proud moment for America. How lucky we are that you continued the illegal war." Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

And three years later, Moqtada's one of the more sane politicians.  Truly, he's shown the leadership Nouri al-Maliki lacks.

And next week, Iraq votes in parliamentary elections.

Thug Nouri wants a third term.

I don't think Iraq can survive it.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 24, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Reider Vissar sticks up for Nouri (again) and fails to grasp hyperbole, Nouri continues killing civilians in Falluja, campaigning continues in Iraq, a cleric is kicked out of Bahrain, and much more.

As I stated in yesterday's snapshot:

If Joel Wing or Reidar Visser see themselves as left, my apologies to them.  Although both have bent to Nouri's will too often for my tastes, I don't see them as right or left but more centrist analysts.

And Visser bends to it again today. Dexter Filkens' New Yorker article led Visser to rush -- yet again -- to Nouri al-Maliki's defense.

And his dishonesty means I'm forced to defend Dexter Filkins.

Skepticism of any report is a good thing when approaching one.  But after you've read it -- I'm not sure Visser read it all -- your criticism needs to be sound.

A colleague of Nouri al-Maliki's says he never smiles.  That's in the opening of the article.  As I noted on Sunday: "His intro should have been redone, it's a nightmare, but otherwise the writing is better than okay." The never smiles remark is what as known as hyperbole.

Yet Visser makes this his first 'fact check' and maintains, "This assertion can be easily falsified by a simple Google Image search, and one assumes the longstanding Maliki associate is talking to Filkins because he is not any longer such a close associate and that maybe that, in turn, may explain the perceived absence of smiles."

Again, it is hyperbole.  Visser calls his own competence as a media critic by failing to grasp hyperbole.

Then Visser wants to insist:

In his description of the 2010 government formation process, Filkins asserts that the Iraqi federal supreme court ruling that formally enabled post-election coalition forming “directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution”. This is just untrue. The problem is that the Iraqi constitution is mute when it comes to the relationship between electoral lists and parliamentary blocs. It just says the biggest parliamentary bloc will nominate the premier, and the supreme court simply repeated that sentence, with the addition that pre-election and post-election formation should be considered on an equal footing. 

Visser's wrong and I can quote him.  Why can't he -- or more importantly -- why won't he quote Filkins?

This is the section that Visser badly summarizes:

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,” Sky, the civilian adviser, said. “The Americans had already weighed in for Maliki.”

Now Reidar Visser, I've tried to be nice.  I haven't been linking to my piece "A crackpot runs AFP, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor" about how you thought you were being followed, that FBI posed as CIA, that you were harassed in US libraries and all the other things we should just leave behind.  But when you wrote your nonsense today, Reidar, you indirectly slammed me with voice mails as various friends in journalism called to tell me how accurate my call on you in that piece was.

Flikins is correct, Emma Sky is correct.

And, yes, I was correct.  This was one of the big things that I can remember Reider and 'others' getting wrong in real time that we went over and over.

It was a violation of the Constitution and maybe Reider doesn't quote Emma Sky from Dexter's report because he realizes she has a lot more credibility than he does?

Reidar doesn't not know the law.  When we're making arguments about the Iraqi Constitution here, it's usually pointed out to me by one of two Iraqis who actually worked on the Constitution (and one of them was a source for Dexter's article, by the way). I then look at the points they're making, walk through them with friends and then present them here.  And unlike Reidar Visser, I understand Constitutional Law and aced that and other legal courses.

Equally true, until Nouri made public the secret judgment (which he sought before the election but didn't share), the operating belief was clear -- and was used in 2006 after the December 2005 parliamentary elections.  Also true, the judges don't make law in Iraq.  But that's what they did with their ruling for Nouri.

Filkens is correct in his report, Reidar Visser is wrong and he's so appalling wrong that he's already chopping off the legs to any sort of comeback he might have.  His devotion to Nouri al-Maliki is apparently greater than his own need for self-preservation.

He's as embarrassing as the eunuchs attempting to serve War Criminal Tony Blair.

Take the ridiculous Jonathan Russell (Left Foot Forward) who screeches, "Tony Blair’s Bloomberg speech yesterday on the Middle East has been roundly criticised from various commentators, most of whom seemed to have not read or heard the actual speech. Brand Blair is considered toxic because of his legacy in Iraq, but the danger is that his valid arguments about Islamist extremism are lost."  We covered that speech in yesterday's snapshot.

Here's a little tip for Jonathan Russell, something most people know -- all of those of  who don't suffer from wet dreams about Tony Blair.  He's not Einstein.  Tony Blair's not even an original thinker.  There's nothing he adds that's particular to him.  His message is already being tossed around -- by neoconservatives.

Of Blair, Betty pointed out, "Tony Blair's the danger.  Today, he tried to paint others as being dangerous." The Daily Mail notes, "[. . .] as his speech yesterday made  clear, he remains in denial over his own role in inflaming terrorism by leading us into a bloody war in Iraq on the strength of a lie."  Arun Kundnani (Guardian) observes,  "Blair's supporters say he has discovered nuance. But the shift in his latest speech is not towards subtlety but a step back to the rhetoric of stability, and the abandonment of the post-9/11 neoconservative slogan of reordering the world. What remains is the hypocrisy of denouncing an ideology as inherently violent, and then launching a grand ideological war against it that results in far more violence."

All of the above goes to the fact that Tony Blair's a lousy megaphone for any idea -- even if it was a good one.   Stop the War's Lindsey German and Robin Beste note 10 facts about Blair and we'll include the first four:

1. Tony Blair has never shown a shred of remorse for the extremism of mass slaughter and destruction for which he was directly responsible, not least in Iraq.
2. Tony Blair is a supporter of extremism around the world, whether it be the dictators in Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan, the despots ruling the oil states Kuwait and Bahrain, or Israel’s apartheid regime that occupies Palestinian land in contravention of international law and countless UN resolutions. When prime minister, not content with waging illegal wars, he was up to his neck in CIA torture and kidnapping ’every step of the way’.
3. Tony Blair defends and applauds the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government in Egypt, saying that it ‘was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation’. He was a supporter of the Egyptian dictator Mubarak, calling him “immensely courageous and a force for good”,right up to the day he was overthrown in a popular revolution by the Egyptian people.

4. Tony Blair blindly ignores the catastrophes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as he endlessly promotes more western military intervention, whether it be in Syria, Iran or beyond.

Repeating, Tony Blair is not an original thinker.  His only value would be to popularize some theme or argument; however, his image is so negative that he can't even manage that.  His attempts to act as a megaphone will only harm any message someone wants to get out.

Let's stay on this cult of personality nonsense for a moment.

Anyone can get taken in, that's always a possibility.  But rational adults can realize they've been conned. Equally true, someone can support a Blair and then a Blair -- or a Nouri -- can morph into something else. At which point, the rational adult can walk away from supporting the person.

I won't support Hillary Clinton if she runs for president.

Some will.

That's their choice, that's their business.

For me, I think it was a slap in the face to her supporters for her to serve in Barack's administration.  It was four years of her supporters having to defend her daily because the partisans blamed her for everything.  They worked overtime to deny her the presidential nomination but then treated the Secretary of State as though she were the president and slammed for what the administration did.  Barack hid behind her skirts and I think Hillary betrayed the support she had by playing 'good soldier.'

As a US senator she opposed the so-called 'surge' in Iraq.  As we now know from former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Hillary only opposed it for political reasons/posturing.

That's actually fine with me.  And it's one of the few things she truly shares with her husband.  He was ridiculed for polling when he was president.  But that was about listening to the American people.  So Hillary listening to the people and opposing the surge?  I applaud that.

It's why, in January of 2008, I realized I'd support her for president.  1) She would poll, she would listen.  2) She wasn't being fawned over.  Her supporters wanted her to fight for them.  They weren't ooohing and aaaweing over the baby fawn emerging from the forest.

So she'd be held accountable -- by the right, by the left, by the center.  We've not seen with Barack.  We've seen a craven media fawn over him (and CBS really needs to address Sharyl Attkison's charges -- with one Rhodes brother in the administration and the other over CBS News, the network really needs to address this).  We've seen a faux left spend his first four years in office attacking Hillary so as not to say an unpleasant word about Barack.

Medea Benjamin writes and co-writes entire articles on The Drone War that overlook the person in charge of it: Barack Obama.

This is exactly what so many of us expected if he won the nomination.

That was 2008.

It's 2014 and Hillary's time in the administration coarsened her and amplified her bad habits.  When she went into her screaming fit before Congress -- that's not how you act before Congress, especially not when you're serving in an administration -- it was obvious how far gone she was.

If I were a Cult of Personality -- or a liar -- I'd just smile and say, "Hillary's so wonderful . . ."

Reider can't walk away from Nouri.

He's not the only one.

And the damage there?

Well Emo youth in Iraq were targeted and it took forever for it to get attention in the US media -- the US music media did a better job of covering it than the news media ever did and the Denver Post was the only mainstream newspaper to treat the issue seriously.

Emo was portrayed as vampires, devil worshipers and gay.  All of that combined was what an Emo was.

And this was portrayed by?  Employees of the Ministry of the Interior who went into schools and lectured children and young adults about how 'evil' the Emo was and how the country of Iraq had to be protected from these people.

There is no Minister of the Interior.  Nouri refused to nominate anyone for that post.  In fact, he refused to nominate anyone to head any of the security ministries.  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."  Those positions were supposed to have been filled before the end of December 2010.  They were not.  They are still not filled.

Nouri refused to fill them because once the Iraqi Parliament confirms a nominee, that nominee is autonomous.  Nouri can't fire them, only the Parliament can.  (Which isn't easy.  Nouri's gotten Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi convicted of 'terrorism' and sentenced to death with the Baghdad courts he controls but he can't get Parliament to strip Tareq of his title.)

As Ayad Allawi pointed out in January of 2011, Nouri was not going to nominate people for these posts because he was conducting a power grab.

That's what it was.

The people 'in' those posts today are not in those posts.  They were not nominated so they don't have Parliament's approval.  Without that, they serve at the will of Nouri.  He can dismiss them because they don't really exist.  This has allowed him to control the security ministries.

So when the Ministry of Interior went around to schools with their hand outs and their demonization of Emo and encouragement of violence against Emo?  That was Nouri.

And Cult of Nouri prevented this very serious issue from getting immediate attention.

The few that cover Iraq in the US didn't want to touch it.  Just like they ignored the Hawija massacre last year (Marcia noted it last night).

And maybe some, like Reidar Visser, got so into Nouri that it became more important to their own image and name that they refused to note reality to protect both Nouri and themselves.

As we've seen repeatedly, when they self-stroke, Iraqis die from violence.

Nouri doesn't want a partner-sharing government.  He made that clear in his second term -- a term he only got by signing a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) promising to implement a power-sharing government. Now he's convinced he can form a majority government if he wins the April 30th elections.  (He's convinced he's going to win as well.) Today, Russ Wellen offers "Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the U.S. Ever Backed" (Foreign Policy In Focus).  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

Thus, the only possible way to realize the State of Law's proposals for forming a majority government would be to jettison the two-thirds requirement.
But there are other factors that come to bear on the mechanisms of forming a new government. Most saliently, every Iraqi government must obtain at least 165 seats in parliament to win legitimacy.
The Iraqi electoral reality will simply not allow any political party to win that many seats, unless it forms a coalition with several other forces.
As for Maliki's State of Law bloc, according to most estimates, it will have difficulty winning more than 80 seats in the current election. Gaining an additional 85 seats will require forging alliances with several parties amid the complex map of Iraqi partisan politics.


Nouri wants a third term.  Trina weighed in on that last night, "Nouri's had two terms to fail in, it's time for a new prime minister."  Xinhua reports:

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Salih al-Mutlak said on Thursday that he opposes a third four-year term for current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, expressing his uncertainty for fair parliamentary elections next Wednesday.
"I do not agree that the prime minister, Mr. al-Maliki, will take a third term in office. I do not agree that any politician will take a third term (of prime minister)," Mutlak said.

All Iraq News notes:

MP, Jawad al-Bazoni, confirmed that scenario after the elections will be a compromise between the Citizen Coalition and other blocs that feel closer to the Coalition.

He stated to All Iraq Agency "The Coalition will be the key side to the reach the compromise with the other blocs."

Elaine noted Nayla Razzouk, Khalid al-Ansary and Dana El Baltaji's Bloomberg News report that Nouri was "banking on sales from the highest crude oil output in 35 years to earn him a third term."  As always for Nouri, when he claims 'success,' fate slaps him in the face.  Hard.  Reuters notes today, "Iraq's oil exports fell to 2.39 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in March, the oil ministry said, down from a record 2.8 million in February due to repeated sabotage of a northern pipeline."  Poor Nouri, he's got the reverse Midas touch -- whee everything he touches turns to s**t.  Amir Taheri (Asharq Al-Awsat) points out:

Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki may yet win enough seats to claim a chance to form another administration. However, even if he manages to hang on, the government he would head would be different.
The coalition that has sustained him in power has simply melted away. Maliki’s core support—coming from one wing of the Al-Da’wah party—accounts for around 11 percent of the electorate. Thus without attracting other mainly Shi’a parties plus the Kurds and some Arab Sunni groups, Maliki would not have been able to keep his post.
In fact, if Iraqi politicians are mature enough they should be able to construct a different coalition with someone other than Maliki as prime minister.
Criticizing Maliki may be easy, bearing in mind his government’s failure to solve such mundane problems as the shortage of water and electricity in Baghdad, not to mention rampant corruption that, according to some Iraqis, has gone beyond the “normal” limits in so-called developing countries.
The least one could say is that the Maliki government is guilty of underachievement.

Iraq could have done much better. 

Seven days from now, Iraq is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections. Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Though Iraqis in some parts of Anbar Province won't be allowed to vote and Iraqi refugees in Syria won't be allowed to vote, Aswat al-Iraq notes Majeed al-Sheikh, Iraq's Ambassador to Iran, declaring that Iraq will allow voting in 11 Iranian cities.  Michael Knights offers an analysis of the upcoming elections -- the after-process -- here. (No excerpt because what jumps out at me is a topic I'm tabling right now.  It has to do with the US government.)  Project on Middle East Democracy offers a roundup of opinions on the elections here. Lukman Faily is the Iraqi Ambassador to the US and he writes a laughable column for McClatchy on the elections.  We'll note this:

The steady development of our oil industry is expected to generate $5 trillion over the next two decades. Iraq intends to use these revenues primarily to rebuild our transportation; improve our education and health care; and restore our electrical, water supply and sanitary systems. All these endeavors, as well as others, offer investment opportunities for American companies.

Oh, is that what will happen?  Instead of going into the pockets of crooks in government?  Iraq's been pulling in billions throughout Nouri's second term and there's no potable water.  There is flooding.  Heavy rains can't be prevented -- and shouldn't be, Iraq needs water.  However, the flooding isn't just from the heavy rains.  When water's knee deep in Sadr City -- standing water -- it's because Nouri's refused to put any of the money from the oil into upgrading the sanitation system.  The water doesn't drain because the sewage system is inadequate.  It stands until it dries up and/or is absorbed by the ground.

On the topic of elections . . .
  • I am seeking a translator/fixer to work with me in , during upcoming parliamentary elections. Good pay. Anyone interested?

  • Read more here:
    Borzou Daragahi was part of the Los Angeles Times' Iraq team in the '00s.  Today, he reports for the Financial Times of London.

    Nigeria's Leadership notes:

    An Iraqi Minister survived an assassination attempt on Thursday, police said in what was the second attempt this week in which a senior government official was targeted.
    A roadside bomb hit the convoy of Youth Minister, Jassem Mohammed near the area of Tuz Khurmato, some 170 kilometres North of Baghdad.

    Violence aimed at candidates has become an election staple in Iraq.  It's become so 'normal' that it doesn't even raise an eyebrow or, for that matter, condemnation publicly from the US State Dept or any other US governmental body.   Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

    "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki accused his rivals of seeking to place “obstacles” in the government’s counter-terrorism plans while Parliamentary Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, head of the Sunni-led Moutahidoun Coalition, accused Baghdad of allowing the unrest in the restive western province of Anbar to continue in order to disrupt the electoral process in Sunni-majority areas."

    al-Nujaifi is correct.  Nouri swore his assault on Anbar would be brief when it began in December and, back in January, was saying it would be wrapped up in weeks.  It's April and ongoing.

    As are his War Crimes.  He continues to shell the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.  NINA notes that four members of one family were left injured today when their homes was bombed. And NINA notes a second round of bombing left 6 civilians dead and nine injured "including two women and a child."  Could someone help me out on when Reidar Visser has used his 'keen legal mind' to call out these War Crimes which are collective punishment and are internationally recognized as War Crimes?

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 people were shot dead in Mosul "in two separate incidents," 4 police members were shot dead in Jehesh Village,  Joint Special Operations Command announced they killed 2 suspects in Ramadi, security forces say they killed 12 suspects in Albuabeid, security forces announced they killed 4 suspects in southern Falluja, a Rutba bombing left 3 police members injured, a Rutbah roadside bombing left 2 police members killed and three more injured, a battle in Shora left 1 rebel dead, a Tikrit car bombing left 1 person dead and five more injured, and a suicide car bomber "in the Nile district 10 km north of Hilla" took his own life and the lives of 5 other people (eight more injured).  IANS adds the death toll on the suicide car bombing increased to 10 people dead (in addition to the bomber) and twenty people injured.  World Bulletin reports, "A local Iraqi councilor and two bodyguards were killed in an attack in the northern Diyala province on Wednesday, a security source said."  All Iraq News reports 5 Sahwa were shot dead and five more were left injured in Salah-il-Din Province.

    Meanwhile a Shi'ite cleric has been kicked out of Bahrain.  Courtney Trenwith (Arabian Business) reports, "The Bahrain Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, Hussein Mirza Abdul Baqi Mohammed, known as Hussain Najati, was representing Ali Al Sistani, the highest ranking Shia marja in Iraq and the leader of the Islamic training centre Hawza in Najaf. A marja, similar to a grand ayatollah, has the authority to make legal decisions under Islamic law."  The forced exit is attracting attention.  Press TV notes Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian objected to the expulsion and stated, "The problem with some parties inside the Bahraini government is that they are not committed to effective political dialogue." The United Nations Human Rights issued the following today:

    Bahrain should stop persecution of Shi’a Muslims and return its citizenship to their spiritual leader

    GENEVA (24 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, today urged the Government of Bahrain to stop the harassment and persecution of the most senior religious leader of the Bahraini Shi’a Muslim community, who was reportedly forced to leave his country following threats from state security agents to arrest him and his son.
    “I have received information from reliable sources that on 23 April Hussain Mirza Abdelbaqi Najati was forced to leave his own country for Lebanon after being exposed to enormous pressure and harassment by the authorities,” the human rights expert said.
    Following Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior own statement, issued on its website on 23 April, it appears that the decision revoking Mr. Najati’s Bahraini citizenship and the orders to expel him from the country may have been made due to his position as a senior and influential religious authority among Shi’a believers, who make up the majority of the population.
    “I have expressed to the Government of Bahrain my grave concerns at what appears to be an act of religiously motivated discrimination which would seem to impose unjustified restrictions on Mr. Najati’s fundamental human rights, including his right to practice and profess peacefully his religious beliefs,” Mr. Bielefeldt stressed, warning that the case may have far-reaching implications for Shi’s Muslim community in the country.
    “Targeting the most senior and influential Shi’a religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shi’a Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.
    Mr. Najati is one of 31 individuals whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked on 7 November 2012 by the decision of the Ministry of Interior, a decision that rendered him stateless. In this regard the UN expert urged the Government to reverse its decision, which appears to be arbitrary, and to facilitate Mr. Najati’s return from Lebanon.
    “International law, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prohibits arbitrary deprivation of nationality, including on religious grounds,” the expert noted. “Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
    “I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion,” the Special Rapporteur said. “He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts.”
    Heiner Bielefeldt assumed his mandate on 1 August 2010. As Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, he is independent from any government, and acts in his individual capacity. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. The Special Rapporteur’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. Learn more, log on to:

    mohammed tawfeeq
    mushreq abbas
    Read on ...

    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    The Urkel Moment

    The Urkel Moment.

    That's "The Urkel Moment."  from January 1, 2011.  I had completely forgotten that one.  C.I. wrote: 

    Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts comic for the year 2010 "The Urkel Moment." Barack says, "2010. Did I do that?" Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

    I like it.

    I don't remember what inspired it but I think it works for his entire first term.

    We'll have to wait and see regarding the second term.

    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Thursday, April 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, Iraq preps for parliamentary elections, the Ja'fari bill gets attention on KPFA, in the US an Iraqi man is convicted of killing his wife, and much more.

    Starting in the US where there's been a conviction.  City News Service reports the El Cajon murder trial reached a verdict today with the jury "finding Kassim Alhimidi, 49, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi, a mother of five."  As we noted April 1st, Shaima's murder was briefly important to gas bags in March 2012 when they thought she was murdered by someone who hated her because she was Muslim or because she was Iraqi or both.  When it turned out it was her husband?  They ran from her and never looked back.  Uprising Radio, US Socialist Worker, Democracy Now . . . all of them cared when it was a 'hate crime' by a stranger.  When Shaima's murder became another in a long line of women killed by 'loved ones' in the US, they didn't have any interest.

  • Victim's family says guilty verdict is the least that could have been done. say in Iraq if you kill someone, you should be killed

  • Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Al-Himidi did not testify during the trial. He wept openly at times and followed the proceeding with the help of an Arabic translator. He screamed when the jury's verdict was read. He faces up to life in prison when sentenced." Kristina Davis and Dana Littlefield (San Diego Union-Tribune) offer, "Kassim Alhimidi shook his head and wagged his finger repeatedly when he heard the verdict: first-degree murder. He put his head down on the desk in front of him several times and appeared to be praying."  R. Stickney and Monica Garske (NBC San Diego -- link is text and video) note, "As the defendant cried out in Arabic 'not guilty,' his mother-in-law flailed her arms, screaming 'you killed my daughter,' while his two teenage sons chose opposing sides."  Kassim Alhimidi is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

    Moving to another topic popular on Twitter . . .

  • Child marriage law stokes fears of looming theocracy in Iraq

  • Breaking News: Iraq's leaders to vote on legalising . Tell them to vote "no" - via

  • Yesterday on KPFA's Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the controversial bill which passed Iraq's Cabinet of Ministers and that chief thug and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  has forwarded to the Parliament was discussed. 

    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.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Actually, the Minister of Justice by the end of October declared that they have a committee -- expert committee -- and they have finished drafting the Ja'fari law.  It consists of 256 articles and he's going to present it to the Cabinet by the next session.  He says that they've been working on for the past two years.

    Malihe Razazan:  Back in 2004, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who died in 2009, he was in exile in Iran for 20 years before the invasion, and after the occupation of Iraq, he worked very closely with the Americans.  His party worked to pass Decision 137 issue by interim governing council to abolish the Personal Status Law Number 188 which was passed  in 1959 --

    Basma al-Kahteeb:  That was actually the first thing that he -- that he issued, this Resolution 137 -- as if Iraq had no problems.  This was the only rule that he came up with.  And we had demonstrations and we managed to defeat that.  They withdrew it.

    Malihe Razazan:   Yeah, because there was a huge backlash against it.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  But this is historical.  His father, Muhsin al-Hakim, back in 1959, when the civil Personal Status Law was issued, the religious institutes led by Muhsin al-Hakim back then, his father, refused this Personal Status Law because it will take all the authority from the cleric.

    Malihe Razazan:  In matters regarding women's divorce, child custody, inheritance it will be left to civil courts.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  Yes.  And this is how our judicial system and lawyers and colleges and scholars all -- I mean, we're talking about sixty years that all our institutions -- judicial, court, everything -- is built on it.  This -- going back just to abolish all of this -- this law --the formal law, the Personal Status Law that's still active now. It doesn't go to clerics, only the judge rules.  This current law puts another council that is in control of judges of courts.  It just turns everything into chaos.  Every lawyer has to study all these religious and cleric institution and legal issues.  It doesn't mean that we have one court.  It means that we have more than 20 courts because each Ayatollah is different in examination with the other.  Havilah?  Even though they're Sh'itie, they're different from the Sadr group, they're different from Sistani interpretation which means multi courts.

    Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed, Isabel Coles and Andrew Roche (Reuters) explore the topic and note:

    Proponents of the Ja'afari Law say many families marry off daughters underage anyway, particularly in the rural south, so the bill would protect young brides by codifying their status.
    "The law does not make the marriage of underage girls obligatory," said Shi'ite women's rights activist Thabat al-Unaibi, adding she would not let her own two daughters marry until they were old enough to have finished their studies.
    "Why all the fuss over this issue?"

    And supporters have been the winners.  Hajer Naili  (Women's eNews) notes:

    Haider Ala Hamoudi, a law professor at the University of Pittsburg who advised the 2009 Constitutional Review Committee of the Iraqi legislature on behalf of the United States Embassy in Baghdad, has analyzed the text.
    In a phone interview he called it sloppily drafted and poorly organized. "I just dismiss it as publicity to garner votes."

    In a in the Jurist, lays out the obstacles to transforming religious texts into actual laws and calls the text something of a "political stunt." In the article he quotes Ayatollah al- Bashir Najif, a leading Shiite, as criticizing the bill as "rife with flights of fancy in legal and juristic formulations that render it impossible that a jurist would find it acceptable."

    Really?  We're going to predict what's going to happen in an election when anything can happen?

    And if it's being used "to garner votes," might some push hard for it to pass the Parliament after the election?

    I have no idea what's going to happen with the bill.

    But it does have supporters and it is being sold.  It's being normalized.

    And this is happening not just with the bill and the attempt to kill off the Personal Status Law Number 188.  This is part of a larger war.  Dropping back to January 27, 2012 snapshot:

    We bring that up because Nouri did finally find a woman and named her to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. The woman is Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi. And Al Mada reports the lovely doesn't believe in equality stating equality "harms women" but she's happy to offer government dictates on what women should be wearing. No, she's not a minister. She's many things including words we won't use here but she's not friend to women and that's why Nouri picked her. A real woman fighting for other women? Nouri can't handle that. A simpering idiot who states that women should only act after their husband's consent? That gender traitor gets a ministry. She's currently at work devising a uniform for Iraqi women.

    Let's to back to Wednesday's broadcast of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  It lowers the marriage age for girls to  9 -- 

    Malihe Razazan:  From 18.

    Basma al-Khateeb:  -- 15 for boys, it's 18 for both [currently] marriage.  Only in  very, very special cases it's 15 with the consent of the judge under the current law.  But for this Ja'fari law it lowers the age to 9.  And wives must seek permission from their husbands before leaving the house.  If I am a doctor or a minister or a lawyer, I cannot go out without permission from my husband, go out of the house.  Muslim men would be prohibited from marrying non-Muslim women.  Granting husbands legal rights to have sex with their wives without their consent.  Granting custody to the father of any child over two-years-old in the case of divorce which is not the case that we have now with the current law.  

    Note the similarities between the law and the position, two years ago, of the Minister of Women's Affairs.

    Nouri picked that idiot for a reason.

    This is not happening by accident.

    Bit by bit, this gets pushed over and over.  And every time it does the appropriate response is world wide condemnation.  Short of that?  It's not just being normalized within Iraq, it's being normalized outside of Iraq via silence.

    Girls below the age of nine can be married with the consent of their

    "But it's still a danger because it's there, the draft is there."
    also them they're still lobbying to pass it

    As Mark Taliano (Troy Media) observes, "'Freedom' and 'democracy' are still cloaking, tacitly or overtly, mass murder and genocide in Iraq at this moment."  And that's certainly clear as Nouri terrorizes the citizens of Anbar.  His War Crimes are many but include the non-stop bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja.  Yesterday's snapshot noted how common these bombings were.  The military's bombing of the residential neighborhoods continues.  NINA reports, "A source at the Fallujah General Hospital told the reporter of the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / five people, including a woman, were killed and 11 others wounded, including two children, in the renewed shelling and mortar to most of Fallujah today."  Qatar News Agency covers the killing of civilians here.

    This is a War Crime.  Nouri's committing War Crimes with weapons the US government provides him with.

    Ann submitted a question to  Gwen Ifill's  live 'chat' (it's not) at PBS' The NewsHour today:

      Which, by the way, is what Ann's question to Gwen Ifill was about (see previous entry "Ann's question on Iraq just got 'answered'").

    Comment From Ann  
    Good afternoon, Gwen. I'm bothered by the attack on Anbar Province in Iraq and the lack of western media coverage. Specifically, Nouri al-Maliki has been bombing the residential neighborhoods of Falluja every day since the start of the year. This is collective punishment and it is leaving many dead -- including many children. But we see nothing on the news about this in the US. Since we are the ones arming Maliki, this seems like a serious news issue in need of coverage to me. What does it take to get Iraq covered on The Newshour? Thank you.

    Gwen Ifill: 
    I have to say, if you're going to see coverage of the ongoing situation in Iraq anywhere, it will be on the NewsHour.

    So Ann raises specific issues and gets an 'answer' where Gwen basically says, 'Watch The NewsHour!'

    It's a funny kind of chat with Gwen playing Amway salesperson.

    But credit to Ann for raising the issue during the 'chat.'

    Turning to other violence . . .


    National Iraqi News Agency reports Joint Operations Command declared they killed 54 suspects in Falluja,  a Balad Ruz suicide bomber took his own life and the life of 1 Iraqi soldierNouri's military used helicopters to kill 4 suspects in Ramadi, a Jurf al-Sakar roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left three police members injured, a Baghdad car bombing left 5 people dead and nineteen injured, and, west of Mosul in Addayya Village, an attack on an Iraqi military base killed 12 soldiers and left ten more injured.

    In addition, Xinhua reports:

    Also in Salahudin province, gunmen blew up a crude oil pipeline in al-Fatha area in east of the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, causing large quantity of oil spill into the nearby Tigris River, a provincial police source said.
    The pipeline carries crude oil produced from Ajil Oilfield in east of the provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, to the refinery in Baiji. A huge fire occurred at the scene, while the oil leak caused pollution in Tigris river that forces many water facilities to stop working in the cities to the south of the leak, the source added.

  • Shootings?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Joint Operations Command declared they killed 54 suspects in Falluja,  1 Shabak was shot dead in Mosul, another Shabak was shot dead in Mosul -- Hussein Badran who was the city's director of parks and forests,  a Raibia secondary school was stormed and its director shot dead, and, west of Mosul in Addayya Village, an attack on an Iraqi military base killed 12 soldiers and left ten more injured.
    Alsumaria notes two parents and their daughter were injured in a Dora shooting,


    Alsumaria notes the corpses of 5 men and 1 women (all shot) were found dumped in the Euphrates River to the north of Babylon,

    Elections are supposed to take place April 30th, parliamentary elections.  Al-Shorfa reports, "Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) on Thursday (April 17th) said it has doubled the number of international observers who will monitor the next parliamentary elections."  Kirk Sowell (Gulf News) notes

      The other key Al Maliki rival are the Sadrists, most of whom are running under the name Ahrar Bloc (Freemen Bloc). Ahrar recently voted in a new governing board following Muqtada Al Sadr’s announcement that he was withdrawing from politics. It remains unclear as to what impact Sadr’s withdrawal will have.
    There are several third-tier coalitions which should get a handful of seats; some of them are entirely Shiite while others are cross-sectarian. They are about evenly divided between factions which are pro and anti-Al Maliki, and should only have an impact if Al Maliki’s margin of victory is relatively narrow.
    The primary Sunni Arab bloc is Speaker Nujaifi’s Mutahidun. It contains a majority of the Sunni factions in the 2010 opposition Iraqiya coalition nominally headed by former interim Prime Minister Eyad Allawi, plus the largest Sunni Turkoman group, the Iraqi Turkoman FrontIts political programme mainly consists of decentralisation, potentially forming new autonomous regions, and the defence of Sunni identity in the face of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

    While Mutahidun’s public rhetoric is focused on pillorying the Al Maliki government, Nujaifi is informally allied with the main Kurdish party, the Kurdistani Democratic Party (KDP), due to his pro-decentralisation stance, ties to Turkey and the need for Kurds, who are predominately Sunni, to balance the Shiites.

    Sowell also points out that there are 142 political parties competing and twelve of those are part of Nouri's State of Law coalition (which lost in 2010 to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.   Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) notes Iraqiya has fragmented since 2010:

    Five main coalitions will compete to win Sunni votes, but we cannot rule out surprise results that might be achieved by small or local parties. Three of these five coalitions, in fact, represent fragments of the Iraqiya List, which is no longer present in the elections. The Mutahidoun bloc, led by parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, is the first of these coalitions. It consists of 13 parties and is seeking to appear as the biggest Sunni force after the elections. The second coalition is the Arabiya led by Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, and includes nine parties. Third, there is the Nationalist Coalition, led by Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister who was the leader of the Iraqiya List.
    The Nationalist is one of the rare blocs that includes Sunni and Shiite members. Moreover, it is participating in the elections in all Arabic-speaking provinces. However, this coalition has poor chances because of intense sectarian polarization and Allawi’s loss of a large part of his traditional constituency, partly due to the emergence of a new liberal list called the Civil Democratic Alliance.

     Al Mada notes Allawi stated today the US backed Nouri (gave him the post of prime minister for a second term) because the US just wanted out of Iraq and he notes their influence is very small in Iraq and in the Middle East -- he points to the failure of (John Kerry's) efforts with regard to Palestine, he points to the Taliban increasing in Afghanistan as the US prepares to leave, he points to Somalia and Sudan.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    The independent MP of the coalition of Kurdish blocs, Mahmoud Othman confirmed " the possibility of establishing a new alliance comprises Barzani , Allawi, al-Hakim, al-Sadr and al-Nujaifi to form the next government ," ruling out holding a session for the House of Representatives before the parliamentary elections ."

    Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) notes the parties are offering no platforms or programs as they seek elected office:

    The Iraqi political forces competing in the elections justify the absence of real programs by asserting that Iraq remains in transition, so there are real differences over the basis of the political process — such as the constitution, government formation, the decision-making process and the relationship between the central government and the provinces and the regions. They claim that this reality forces them to take positions on these particular issues, rather than presenting political programs. For example, some campaigns are sloganeering on amending the constitution, while others' slogans invoke government formation by the political majority, decentralization and the war on terror.
    Being in a transitional phase and disagreeing over political fundamentals do not, however, justify lacking an economic or development program or taking positions on such issues as housing, health, education, human development, and human rights and freedoms. To be fair, a few political forces such as the Supreme Islamic Council have presented detailed programs, but the problem is then that the Iraqi voter is faced with a choice between a detailed program and lots of attractive slogans.

    They may not have programs or proposals, but, in Basra, they have food.  Saleem al-Wazzan (Niqash) reports:

    “Some candidates believe that the easiest way to convince voters, or to silence critics, is by filling their mouths with food,” Kathem Zayer, a primary school teacher in Basra, told NIQASH. “The same thing happens when there are provincial elections – there’s clearly a direct relationship between elections and banquets. Today special meals are the best way of enhancing a candidate’s image, and of burnishing the image of the party behind them.”

    And during this round of campaigning it seems that banquets are more popular than ever, replacing the usual distribution of other gifts like blankets and food. Banqueting also seems to have replaced campaign promises, for things like government jobs or better services. That’s because nobody believes these promises anymore. But they can still dine out.

    In the province of Basra, south of Baghdad, there are more than 750 candidates competing. Prominent parties in the area, which has a mostly Shiite Muslim population, include the State of Law list led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is himself a Shiite Muslim as well as the list led by the Shiite Muslim-oriented Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Ahrar list, which is tied to the Sadrist movement, also Shiite Muslim. Also noteworthy in Basra is the Wataniya party, which is led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and which is trying to set itself apart as being secular and non-denominational. 

    By rights Basra should be one of Iraq’s wealthiest cities – it is the site of a major port and some of Iraq’s biggest oil fields are located in the surrounding province. But somehow this wealth has not had any effect on the lives of many ordinary people who live here – the poverty level in Iraq sits at around 22 percent but some recent estimates suggest that it’s higher in Basra. They say that just over a third of the population in Basra live in poverty.

    Read on ...
    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.