President Obama spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to express support for a unified Iraq. “President Obama expressed the United States’ firm commitment to a unified, democratic Iraq as defined by Iraq’s constitution,” said a White House readout of the phone conversation.
Meanwhile, on our planet, the Associated Press tells us:
Now that U.S. forces are gone, Iraq‘s ruling Shiites are moving quickly to keep the two Muslim sects separate — and unequal. Sunnis are locked out of key jobs at universities and in government, their leaders banned from Cabinet meetings or even marked as fugitives. Sunnis cannot get help finding the body of loved ones killed in the war, and Shiite banners are everywhere in Baghdad. “The sectarian war has moved away from violence to a soft conflict fought in the state institutions, government ministries and on the street,” political analyst Hadi Jalo says. “What was once an armed conflict has turned into territorial, institutionalized and psychological segregation.”
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, the administration’s top Sunni official, is a fugitive wanted by prosecutors on terror charges. He fled to the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq to escape what he said would certainly be a politically motivated trial, and he left this week for Qatar, which publicly has criticized what the Gulf nation’s prime minister called the marginalization of Sunnis. Hashemi is now in Saudi Arabia, probably apartment hunting. Al Jazzeera says that in a 2008 US diplomatic cable Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin was quoted as saying Saudi King Abdullah saw Maliki as “an Iranian 100 per cent,” so presumably Hashemi will enjoy a warm welcome to the Kingdom.
In other news, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni, has been banned from attending Cabinet meetings because he called Maliki a dictator.
Obama seemingly supports these autocratic moves by Malaki in appointing a new US Ambassador who is openly opposed by non-Malaki supporters, to the point where they are talking about refusing to meet with him. That refusal to even meet could possibly affect efforts at unification, what do you think?
It remains unclear why US officials say the things that they do, statements that are not clearly related to the obvious reality around them. Is it wishful thinking? Hope as a strategy? They can’t be that stupid, right?
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
On January 8, Iraq’s (Maliki-controlled) Interior Ministry in Baghdad demanded the Kurdistan Interior Ministry in Arbil hand over Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi. TV networks quoted the Iraqi Interior Ministry as having demanded the Interior Ministry of northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to “cooperate with it in handing over al-Hashimi and 14 of his bodyguards and employees, according to arrest warrants, issued against them by the Iraqi Judiciary and Investigation Judges, according to the Iraqi Law’s Article 4 – Terrorism.”
Later that same day, according to one Kurdish news source, Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Interior said he will not hand Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi over to Baghdad because he is a “guest”.
This is the equivalent of a practical act of secession, a regional government denying the order of the central government.
Meanwhile, the Al-Iraqiya bloc confirmed it will continue to boycott parliament.
Defense Secretary Panetta said helplessly on CBS’ Face The Nation, “We’re confident that we have an Iraqi government and an Iraqi security force that is capable of dealing with the security threats that are there now. The level of violence has been down. It’s been down for a long time. And even though we’ve had these periodic acts of violence, that’s something we’ve experienced there for a long time. But the bottom line is that the Iraqis can provide good security and that our people can be secure in what they’re doing.” Thanks Leon, that adds a lot to the discussion.
The rest of the country, the some 30 million people not involved in these political machinations, suffers from the destroyed infrastructure, the failed efforts of the nine year US campaign to rebuild the water, sewer and electrical grids. An article on al-Jazeerza chronicles the mess left behind. As just one example, according to a March 2011 report by the UN’s Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, one in five Iraqi households use an unsafe source of drinking water, and another 16 per cent report daily supply problems.
The situation is even worse in rural areas, where only 43 per cent have access to safe drinking water, and water available for agriculture is usually scarce and of very poor quality.
The rest of Iraq continues to see a steady background hum of violence:
Car bombs at Baghdad mosque and market against Shiites kill 11, hurt 44.
13 casualties in 2 Karbala explosions
1/8/2012 6:26 PM
3 persons injured in 2 Kirkuk explosions
1/8/2012 1:08 PM
Shiite pilgrim killed in Baghdad
1/7/2012 6:54 PM
Driver’s body found in Wassit province
1/7/2012 6:38 PM
Bat-ha suicide bomber is an Arab – police sources
1/7/2012 6:32 PM
11 prisoners escape from Duhuk prison
1/7/2012 4:24 PM
Merchant kidnapped, al-Sahwa element injured in Kirkuk
1/7/2012 10:03 AM
Fuel tanker seized with its gunman-driver in Kut
1/6/2012 5:36 PM
5 mortar shells fall in various Baghdad areas
1/6/2012 3:26 PM
10 casualties in 2 explosions in Baghdad
1/6/2012 2:13 PM
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
State Department Undersecretary for Management guy Pat Kennedy said this recently on NPR, justifying the $3.5 billion a year maintaining the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad (c) costs:
This is a democracy in the Middle East. Is it perfect? No. A lot of people think our system isn’t perfect either. But this is a major oil producer, a friend of the United States, a potential market for American goods and now, I think, a very important symbol in the Middle East of what democracy in the Middle East could be.
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said that an investigation into allegations against Iraq’s vice president appears to be proceeding fairly despite claims that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pursuing a political vendetta against a rival.
This statement was made despite the fact that Hashemi is so confident in the fairness of the judicial system that he sought sanctuary in semi-autonomous Kurdistan. The charges against him are based in large part on “confessions” by his bodyguards made after their “interrogations” by security forces loyal to Maliki. Hashemi’s alleged crimes, uncovered by Maliki the very day US forces withdrew in 2011, took place in 2006. Just never got around to investigating them earlier I guess.
Meanwhile, in our universe:
A roadside bomb targeting Shia pilgrims killed 30 people on the outskirts of the southern city of Nasiriyah on Thursday. A total of 30 people were killed and 72 wounded in the attack, which occurred just west of Nasiriyah as pilgrims were walking to the holy shrine city of Karbala for Arbaeen commemorations.
The attack came on the same day two Shia neighbourhoods in Baghdad were targeted in bombings that left at least 23 people dead.
At least nine civilians have been killed and 35 others injured in two successive explosions and a motorbike blast in east Baghdad’s Sadr city on Thursday morning.
A female child has been killed and six civilians injured in five successive explosions in the city of Baaquba, the center of northeast Iraq’s Diala Province, on Wednesday morning.
A group of unknown armed men have killed two Iraqi soldiers in southern Mosul, the center of Ninewa Province, late Tuesday night.
We’ll assume officials like Kennedy and Jeffrey are not ignorant or uninformed. That leaves then the question as to why they would keep saying ridiculous things about Iraq, claiming it is a democracy somehow comparable to our own system, or that Maliki’s blatant power plays are following the rule of law.
“What we’re seeing is a new era in post-Saddam politics,” said Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. “Iraq’s stability is on really weak foundation. Maliki has gone too far in his campaign against political rivals, his only option is to keep going.”
So who are people like Kennedy and Jeffreys trying to fool?
Either themselves, or you. The Iraqis certainly know what is going on in their own country, watching 60 of their countrypeople blown up on a single all-too-typical Thursday. Maliki and Hashemi understand the game being played out. So the disingenuous statements by State Department officials are designed either to convince themselves that they are doing a robust job, or, to convince you that after all these years, all those lives and all that money, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was still somehow worth it.
As the war drums beat over Iran, you decide, but don’t get fooled again.
Iraqiya bloc MP Mudhir al-Janabi told Aswat al-Iraq that Joe Biden will soon visit Iraq to try and bring the warring political parties to the table. It will be a tough sell, as Maliki has pretty much blown Biden off in recent days.
Biden is the latest in a parade of “best hits of the Iraq War” celebs to go to Iraq, following Odierno and Petraeus. It is also rumored that the World’s Largest Embassy (c) still exists and thus must be playing some role in all this negotiating.
Thanks to the UN (also not the State Department), residents of the anti-Tehran Mujahedin E-Khalq (MEK) Organization Asrah Camp in northeast Iraq shall move to what used to be Camp Liberty in Baghdad, in response to a Memo of Understanding, signed between Iraq and the United Nations. Once there, the UN will begin processing the MEKs for resettlement outside Iraq. Liberty was known during the American Occupation has having the largest PX in Iraq, a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a KFC, plus a large “mall” with over seventy Iraqi national vendors. Perhaps the MEK people will inherit the franchise rights to tide them over while waiting to be processed out as refugees?
Oh wait, here’s something State can do: “US Embassy officials in Baghdad shall carry out organized and repeated visits to the new MEK location, whilst we support the Iraqi government’s readiness to postpone the final closure of Ashraf Camp, in order to give enough time to implement this plan,” SecState Clinton said. At least she did not say “robust.” Seems reasonable in that the World’s Largest Embassy (c) comes with the World’s Largest price tag, some $3.8 billion (about $2.5 billion of that is for security) a year in operating costs, about a fourth of all State’s yearly costs.
The idea of US diplomats visiting MEK completes the circle: the US Dips will be surrounded by massive security to protect them from the Iraqis the US liberated while at the same time using their own presence to protect the MEKs from the liberated Iraqis. It all adds up to freedom somehow.
And as usual, Musings on Iraq has the final word on political events in Mesopotamia:
Whether the confessions were true or not, they point to Iraq’s dysfunctional government. Since Hashemi and the Iraqi Islamic Party have been implicated in using violence in the past, the arrest warrant could be based upon fact. That would just be the latest indictment against the country’s major parties almost all of which have relied upon militias at one time or another. At the same time, the prime minister could be manipulating the security forces and justice system to carry out his latest vendetta against his rivals. He has done similar things before, using the state apparatus to further his own political agenda. The truth of this story is likely never to be revealed, but it shows why Baghdad doesn’t work.
I discuss the current political moves in Iraq, and look ahead at the next likely steps, on RT.com.
See the full story, now at RT.com.
For those who were napping, literally a freaking day (this war’s “decent interval”) after the last US troops left Iraq, PM Maliki drops an arrest warrant on his Sunni VP, pops three of the guy’s bodyguards into jail, and then rolls them out on the TV to announce their boss, VP Hashemi, is a terrorist. Tanks appear in the Green Zone, with their tubes pointed inward at various Sunni leaders’ homes. Hashemi runs for the protection of Kurdistan, nominally part of Iraq but pretty much autonomous, at least as declared so by Exxon, who signed oil contracts up there without the seal of approval of PM Maliki.
To make things more intense, Maliki threatened on Wednesday to abandon the American-backed power sharing government created a year ago.
Hashemi remains in exile with the Kurds. “Unfortunately I cannot go to Baghdad right now, my office is occupied, all of my computers have been seized by authorities loyal to Maliki,” he told the Daily Beast. “My house is being investigated and all my computers and papers have been seized there. My office staff has been asked to leave.”
Maliki also issued a warning to his rivals from Iraqiya, the largely Sunni bloc of lawmakers that includes Hashemi: if it does not end its boycott of Parliament and the Council of Ministers, he would move to form a majority government that would, in essence, exclude Sunnis from power. If Iraqiya’s ministers do not show up at future sessions, he said, “we will appoint replacements.”
And as a final punctuation point, a wave of at least 14 bombings ripped across Baghdad Thursday morning, killing at least 60 people in the worst violence Iraq has seen for months.
Oh, now don’t go acting all surprised at this.
The US has signaled several times to the Shia majority that it was willing to trade Sunni lives for the appearance of democracy, and then to trade that appearance of democracy for anything in Iraq that is not overtly seen as an Iranian win.
The key to the lessening of violence during the Surge in 2007 was the US buying off the Sunnis, the so-called Anbar Awakening. The US paid Sunnis not to kill us, helped them eliminate rivals (all labeled “al Qaeda” to make it nice and legal looking) and claimed publicly that this was all to buy time for some sort of Sunni-Shia reconciliation. Instead, even as early as 2009 when I was involved with such Sunnis, the US made little more than happy sounds to try and get the Shias to uphold their promises to take over the payoffs and provide real jobs for the Sunnis. The US sat idle in the face of obvious fraud in the payoffs and sat idle when Sunnis were never offered meaningful jobs in the new Shia government. That bought-and-paid-for lapse in violence was good enough to start the troop pullouts that ended a few days ago. With honor.
The real sign that the appearance of a democracy alone was good enough for the US took place after the contested March 2010 elections. Though it appeared Sunni-backed elements won the majority of votes, without the support of the Iranian-backed Shias, especially the Sadrists, they could not form a government. The Iranians brokered a deal that created a Shia majority government with the Sadrists, throwing a few bones to the Sunnis and leaving the Kurds alone as they wished to be. The US, desperate to see some government, any government, be formed to allow us to finally leave Iraq, fluttered around Baghdad frantically, advising this and suggesting that, until nine lousy months later the Iranians proclaimed it finished and a government was formed, December 2010.
With one eye on the exit, the US then sat quietly while Maliki failed to fill the critical government posts of Defense and Interior, the later controlling internal security. Maliki instead put himself into both jobs. Meanwhile, the daily news in Iraq was filled with stories of assassinations of Sunni government officials, with the regular whacking of Sunni Sons of Iraq leaders. Any violence directed at Shias was quickly labeled, again, “al Qaeda,” which enabled the US to look the other way as Maliki spent a year arranging the chess board for this week’s moves.
Of course a coincidence, but Maliki announced today that instead of the number zero previously trumpeted in two capitals, the US is leaving behind 700 US soldiers as “trainers.” He also extended the MEK grace period another few months. Thus the US is handed a Scooby treat or two to ensure it keeps shut up about Maliki’s political moves.
The World’s Largest Embassy (c) in Baghdad returned the favor. The Embassy web site features a puff piece on Maliki’s visit with Obama and an article on “Using Sports as a Means to Empower Women and Girls.” No mention of the current dramatic events in Iraq among the “emergency messages” for American Citizens either. Nothing to see here folks, move along now.
So, stop acting so surprised that 24 and a quarter hours after the US pulled out Maliki pulled off his rubber George Washington face mask to reveal himself instead to be just another crappy Middle East dictator running roughshod over his own country.
America made it very, very clear it would sacrifice democracy in Iraq for pretty much whatever it could get in order to pull the troops out, and America got exactly what it said it wanted, not much more than 24 hours later.
There’s yer legacy, boys, there’s what ya’ll died for. Photo above of PM Maliki and Obama laying a memorial wreath at Arlington National Cemetery last week.