Thursday, November 17, 2011

3 men, 2 women

The first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR) featured Kevin Book, Coral Davenport, Robert Bryce and Nathanael Greene. The second hour was Diane Keaton.

The second hour was really solid radio. Diane Keaton has a new book called Then Again about her mother and herself.

Diane Rehm: Tell me about your relationship with her growing up.


Diane Keaton: Well, of course, I was just devoted to my mother because she was devoted to me. My mother was by far the most active, intense, devoted listener that I've ever come across in my life. I used to love to spend time with my mother just sitting across from her at the kitchen counter and telling her about my problems. I had many problems and she would always sit there and she would also look and go, oh Diane, it's going to be alright. She never made a judgment call. She just allowed me to go on and on and was always, as I said, actively interested, so she was this fabulous person to listen to and she had a great sense of humor. So you know she would laugh and she would encourage me and this is true with my siblings as well, Randy, Robin and Dorrie. So this was a great gift and I don't think people really understand how important listening is. You know my problem in life has always been that I like to express myself. I don't like to listen as much as I like to express myself, but I'm learning and I do think it's a great gift because I think it makes for a more enriched life, but it's hard sometimes.


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

Thursday, November 17, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq executes 11 people, Camp Ashraf residents get attention from the US Senate, Political Stalemate II continues, Nouri prepares to target more political opponents, Nouri launches secret arrests on Iraqi youths who had the 'nerve' to complain about the lack of employment in their country, and more.
Camp Ashraf is one of the worst reported subjects in the US press. We do get articles so slanted that even a paper's public editor calls out the slant (against the residents of Camp Ashraf) and we get hurled insults at Howard Dean, Wesley Clark and others for speaking out on behalf of the residents. But very little attention is given to the issue of their support. A US military official used the New York Times to smear Clark and Dean and suggest that they have sold their voices out to the highest bidders. US House Rep Bob Filner has not been paid on behalf of anyone to speak out for the residents of Camp Ashraf (a number of family members of the residents live in California, including in Bob Filner's district). You don't read about that. You don't read about hearings on topic or Congressional statements. This week, Camp Ashraf, yet again, came up in a Committee hearing. We're going to note the remarks. But first, let's provide some background on Camp Ashraf.
Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,500 people). Iranian dissidents were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8th of this year Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Nouri al-Maliki is seen as close to the government in Tehran. They have made it clear that they want the dissidents out of Iraq and returned to Iran -- where they would face trial at best, torture most likely. Nouri has announced he will be closing Camp Ashraf at the end of this year. UK MP Brian Binley (Huffington Post) writes, "As things are evolving and if Maliki gets away with his plan to impose the deadline, just as the Christmas and New Year holidays are in full swing, the prospect is that the world will sit and watch while men and women are killed in cold blood or mutilated, crushed by US-supplied armoured personal carriers."
"The status of the residents at Camp Ashraf from the Iranian dissident group MEK remains unresolved," Senator Carl Levin declared Tuesday. "As the December 2011 deadline approaches, the administration needs to remain vigilant that the government of Iraq lives up to its commitments to provide for the safety of the Camp Ashraf residents until a resolution of their status can be reached. We need to make it clear to the government of Iraq that there cannot be a repeat of the deadly confrontation began last April by Iraqi security forces against Camp Ashraf residents."
He was speaking Tuesday morning at the Senate Armed Services Comittee hearing while delivering his opening remarks as Chair of the Committee. Senator John McCain is Ranking Member on the Committee. The first panel the Committee heard testimony from was composed of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsy. Camp Ashraf came up in Chair Levin's opening remarks and it came up later during the first panel.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Do you think -- do you think the people in Camp Ashraf, do you think they're going to get killed? What's going to happen to them?
General Martin Dempsey: The, uh, as you know, Senator, the State Department is leading an effort to ensure that -- work with the Iraqi government ---
Senator Lindsey Graham: Can you tell the people back here that the likelihood of their friends and family being killed has gone up greatly if there are no American forces up there policing the problem?
General Martin Dempsey: I won't say anything to those people because I'm not involved in the outcome.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Fair enough.
In what was now the second round, John McCain went on to laugh with Leon Panetta and to thank him for appearing before the Comittee and putting up with pointed questions. He brought up a request that Panetta had made to him and Senator Graham (formally, in a letter) and noted they were working on that issue (defense funding). We're not going to excerpt that but since so much was made of the first round of questioning between Panetta and McCain, we will note that both laughed with one another in an exchange in the second round. (The hysterical gossip corps portrayed McCain being testy as new or novel and may have left many with images of poor Leon struggling for the vapors. Neither person was harmed by the exchange in the first round nor appeared to hold a grudge or ill will towards the other.) Near the end of his second round, McCain did bring up the issue of Camp Ashraf.
Ranking Member John McCain: Could I just say finally on the Camp Ashraf issue, I know the Secretary of Defense -- I mean, Secretary of State is addressing this issue, but it is American troops that are protecting them now. I hope that you can give us some idea of what disposition is going to be because I think it's -- I think it's very clear that the lives of these people are at risk and I thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: I appreciate that.
Chair Carl Levin: Well, just on that, to turn it into a question -- and, maybe, General, this needs to be addressed to you too -- what -- There's obviously a greater risk to folks there unless the Iraqis keep a commitment. What's going to be done to make sure, to the best of our ability, that they keep that committment and what about the question of removing them from the list of -- not them, the organization from the terrorist list?
General Martin Dempsey: Well, Senator --
Senator Carl Levin: We're all concerned about this --
General Martin Dempsey: And we share your concern. [General] Lloyd Austin shares your concern. And I know that Ambassador Jeffreys shares the concern and there is no -- we're not sparing any diplomatic effort to encourage the Iraqis to do what we think is right in this regard to ensure the protection of those folks in Camp Ashraf. But right now, actually, the Iraqi security forces guard Camp Ashraf with our advisory and assistance group with them. And so the concern, when we do leave that capacity, is a real one. And But I actually think we've got to put the pressure on the Iraqi government diplomatically to have the outcome that we think is correct.
Senator Carl Levin: Just assure them if you would that there's a real strong feeling around here that if they -- if they violate a committment to protect those people -- assuming that they're still there and that they haven't been removed from the terrorist list so that they can find other locations -- that if they violate that committment to us, that is going to have a severely negative impact on the relationship with the -- I think I can speak here -- the Congress although I'm reluctant to ever say this. I think there's a lot of concern in the Congress about it and this will, I believe, in my opinion, will severely negatively impact their relationship with the Congress. Let me leave it at that.
Secretary Leon Panetta: Senator, I want to assure you that Ambassador Jeffrey has made that point loud and clear, loud and clear the Iraqis.
Senator Carl Levin: Senator Lieberman?
Senator Joe Lieberman: Thanks, Mr. Chairman. And add my voice and I think you can speak for Congress members of both parties in both houses in expressing our concern about the safety of the people in Camp Ashraf.
Our gossip corps masquerading as a press corps missed that too, didn't they? The Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee declared that if the Iraqi government did not keep their promise to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf -- residents that the Iraqi forces have already twice attacked -- there would be serious damage to the government of Iraq's relationship with the US Congress.
Sounds like a headline to me. In fact, sounds like a first page, opening segment of the evening news type story. And that's before you factor in the remarks of the others or the consensus that Levin did speak for Congress in his remarks. Yes, independent Joe Lieberman did agree with Democrat Carl Levin who agreed with Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain but there were other Democrats present (Ben Nelson, Kay Hagan, Jeanne Shaheen) and other Republicans present (Jeff Sessions). No one lodged an objection. It would appear that the US Congress -- at least the Senate -- pretty much universally (if not fully) backs the protection of Camp Ashraf residents. That's a story you really don't get. But news outlets can make time and will make time to run stories implying that Howard Dean and Wesley Clark are only concerned with the protection of Camp Ashraf residents because they've been 'bought' and that no one would care about these people unless they were being paid to. The implication being not only that Dean and Clark are 'on the take' but also that the residents of Camp Ashraf are so low on the human chain or so digusting or so whatever that no one in their right mind could ever think these people were worthy of defending. That's a really ugly thing to suggest about Dean and Clark and it's extremely ugly and phobic to suggest that of the residents of Camp Ashraf.
If you need an example of this ugliness, you can refer to Josh Rogin's Foreign Policy piece. Tonight or at Third on Sunday, I plan to write about how people get hearings so wrong. You can find part of the answer in Josh Rogin's quote from Carl Levin. Yes, Levin did declare what Rogin quotes him stating -- but that's all Rogin quotes him stating and misses the exchange that we've quoted above. That's because like a lot of 'reporting' on this hearing, people didn't bother to attend the actual hearing. But we'll save that for tonight or I'll take it over to Third on Sunday.
Gary Feuerberg (Epoch Times) reports, "The Ashraf residents fear that they will be sent back to Iran, where they were an opposition group, and could be executed. Three Iranians visiting their sons in the camp, upon returning home, were each executed in Dec. 2010 - Jan. 2011. In the last few days, Iraqi troops in larger numbers have been outside the gates, awakening the residents early in the morning with taunts broadcast through loud speakers. The residents remember April 8 this year, when this kind of harassment was a prelude to the Iraqi military firing on unarmed residents, killing 36 and wounding scores that outside observers called a massacre." Outside observers include US Senator John Kerry who termed that assault a "massacre." British MP David Amess writes at the Independent of London's Foreign Desk blog:
At Camp Ashraf in Iraq, 3,400 residents are encircled. Loud speakers have been placed around the town's perimeter as part of a campaign of psychological intimidation. They blast out insults and threats in the early hours of the morning. The aggressors, Iraqi forces, are taking orders from the Iranian regime. They want Camp Ashraf cleared out and shut down because the residents are members of the People's Mohjahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), the main Iranian opposition group.
No-one is allowed out of the Camp to receive medical attention. Foreign observers, including Euro MPs, US congressmen and journalists, are not allowed to enter. In the latest sign that the siege is tightening, Ashraf's fuel supplied have been cut off. There have been no gasoline deliveries for almost a year, and very little diesel fuel and kerosene. Now that temperatures are dropping, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered an end to deliveries of coal and wood.
Iraq's Christian community has been repeatedly targeted. They were raised twice in Tuesday's hearing. Both times by Chair Carl Levin. First, he noted in his opening statement, "Our concern about the security of the Christian minorities is very strong. We need to work with the government of Iraq to ensure it has the will and capability to protect Iraq's religious minority communities from targeted violence and persecution."
Then he brought up the issue again when the first round of questioning started.
Chair Carl Levin: Let me ask you about protection of religious minorities, since our invasion of Iraq in 2003, I have worked with many members of the Congress and many members of Congress have worked with our military and civilian leadership both here and in Iraq to ensure that the small religious minority community in Iraq are protected from targeted violence and persecution. Give us your assessments, first Secretary and then perhaps general, of what the Iraqi government's willingness and ability to protect the religious minorities in Iraq, particularly the Christians?
Secretary Leon Panetta: I-I believe that, uh, Ambassador Jeffrey and the State Department continue to work very closely with the Iraqis to ensure that, uh, religious minorities are protected there. It is -- it is a problem. It's a concern. I think it's something that's going to demand continued vigilance by all of us, continuing pressure by all of us, on the Iraqi government that they do everything possible to recognize both human and religious rights. There's a lot of history here and a lot of challenges here but I am absolutely convinced when you talk to the political leadership in Iraq, uh, they -- they don't want to have these kind of divisions, they don't want to have this kind of discrimination take place within their country but it's going to require constant vigilance to make sure it doesn't happen.
Chair Carl Levin: General, do you have anything to comment on that?
General Martin Dempsey: No, just the -- just the comment, Senator, on the fact that in the pre-surge period, which many of us remember, it was very common for state sponsored militias out of the security ministries to be conducting these kind of attacks against uh-uh those religious groups that didn't agree with their particular faith. We haven't seen anything like that since the surge -- meaning the security ministries have become responsible agents of government. And though not discounting the continued pressure on the small religious communities, at least it -- there's no evidence that it will be state-sponsored. And that's a -- that's a significant change.
Yes, you did just hear a US general cite as "significant" progress that the Iraqi Christians were not being attacked by government forces. Which brings up the very real issue of why, in real time, we weren't told this? It's so wonderful as they reflect back on 2006 through 2008 and suddenly want to share with the world events that, when the US military appeared before Congress during those same years, they never raised. But, just like Dempsey on Tuesday, they always managed to insist Iraq was coming along nicely.
The reality for Iraqi Christians isn't pretty. Take Kirkuk where the Syriac Orthodox Church has now been bombed three times in five years. Most estimates on Christians in Baghdad are at 4,000 or under. That number was said to be at least 300,000 of Iraq's estimated 800,0000 Christians in 2002. Many have left Baghdad for other countries or to move to the Kurdish north which is thought to be a safer area for Iraqi Christians. So, when the Baghdad population is no longer targeted by Nouri's Iraqi security forces, it's not "significant," despite what Dempsey says. What's signficant is that a large number of them were killed, a large number of them left Baghdad for other countries (Iraqi Christians make up at least 25% of the Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanaon) and a large number moved to the KRG where Nouri's forces can't get to them. (The semi-autonomous KRG has its own security forces including the peshmerga.)
This week, Mark Pattison (Catholic News Service) reported Youngstown, Ohio's Bishop George V. Murry, just returned from Iraq, is calling for an increase in US financial aid to Iraq, what he terms a "modern-day version of the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after the Second World War. [. ..] Iraq is suffering from the results of the war. The United States and the nations that joined with it in the war can help Iraq rebuild their infrastructure and rebuild their country." Joan Frawley Desmond (National Catholic Register) quotes the bishop stating, "We visited the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, where the militants entered and killed the faithful, including two priests. One still sees bloodstained walls." Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked October 31, 2010. An Iraqi Christian told the bishops on their visit, "We used to live in the Garden of Eden, and now we live in hell." As Jim Muir (BBC News -- link is text and video) observed after that attack, the Islamic State for Iraq declared "that all Christians in the country are now a legitimate target."
Levin was the only one to explore the issue of Iraqi Christians in the hearing. That might actually be a good thing when you notice how efforts were made to spin the KRG. For background, we drop back to Monday's snapshot:
AFP reports John Kirby declared at the Pentagon today that the US was deploying some of the predator drones in Iraq to Turkey to give "support to the Turkish military to deal with the specific threat posed by the PKK on their southern border." Reuters adds that the program "involves four US predator unmanned aircraft". Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) observes, "Moving them to Turkey could strengthen the diplomatic alliance with the United States, but it also risks putting the United States in the middle of a regional conflict between Turkey and Iraq, two putative allies. Pentagon officials declined to say whether the four Predator drones being flown out of Incirlik Air Base, a joint U.S. - Turkish military installation, would be allowed to cross into Iraqi air space." And how is Iraq going to feel knowing Turkey has a spy view on them? Not the US which is bad enough. But Turkey's a neighbor. There's really no chance Turkey won't use the drones to their own advantage? John Reed (Military.com News) adds, "In what could be an effort to head off the popular discontent seen in other countries that have hosted U.S. drones, Davotugu claimed that the American UAV missions would be overseen by the Turkish military."
The following day, at Tuesday's hearing, this issue was raised in the hearing.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: [. . .] we have cooperated with Turkey in the past -- specifically with Kurds in northern Iraq. And we're seeing that violence between Turkey and the Kurd rebels has escalated since the summer. We saw a major Turkish operation into Iraq. And, yesterday, there were reports that US drones had deployed into Turkey from Iraq for surveillance flights. So can you just give us an update on that situation?
General Martin Dempsey: I can, thank you, Senator. You know each combatant commander has a theater security cooperation plan that supports both building the capability of our partners allows us to make ourselves better and deters potential adversaries. And so in Turkey, for example, we have, uhm, we've-we've recently, as you've described, taken the ISR platform that was apparently flying out of Balad Air Base and is now flying out of Incirlik in Turkey to support the Turks in their fight against terrorism. The Turks recently agreed to put the TPY-2 radar [Army/Navey/ Transportable Radar Surveillance] as part of the European phase adaptive approach, integrated air defense, against the possibility of a rogue missile strike from Iran if they develop that capability. So -- And then if you walk down the Gulf Cooperative Council, we have bi-lateral agreements with each of them -- some of which are multi-lateral, for example, air defense; some of which are exclusively bi-lateral. And then the other thing we do is exercises as well as this foreign military sales program, it becomes a significant cornerstone to our relationship with these countries.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: Relative to the US - Turkey cooperation on the Kurds, how is Iraq responding?
Genearl Martin Dempsey: Iraq has uh-uh consistently denounced the presence of the Kurdish -- the PKK on Iraq's soil and so too has the Kurdistan Regional Government. So there hasn't been any friction as long as there's been transparency about intent.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: So we're cooperating with them as we're doing these kind of
General Martin Dempsey: We are, Senator.
That was very far from the truth. Not only have there been protests throughout Iraq -- not just in the KRG -- against Turkey's latest bombing campaign which began August 17th, but members of Parliament have called out the bombing campaign -- called out publicly. Wednesday, Al Mada reported on the objections which include that Turkey, "under the pretext of attacking the PKK," has launched one of the most dangerous assaults on civilians and the transfer of drones is called "extremely dangerous" and attempt by the US government to curry favor with Turkey. If you're missing it, Iraqis are not dancing in the streets with joy over the use of drones to monitor their country and provide the results to Turkey.
Violence continued in Iraq today. Reuters notes a Tuz Khurmato sticky bombing (to a bulldozer) claimed 1 life. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds a Mosul bombing this morning claimed the life of police officer Lt Col Jabbar Rasheed and left three more police officers injured while a Mosul roadside bombing left nine people injured and a Mosul roadside bombing attack (three bombs) left ten people injured and a Mahmoudiya car bombing left six people injured.

In addution, Al Rafidayn reports that 11 people were executed today and quotes a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice stating that this incuded a woman and a Tunisian. (Mohammed Tawfeeq covers the issue here for CNN for those who'd like a report in English.) Amnesty International notes:
The Iraqi authorities must commute all death sentences and ensure verdicts
are not based on forced confessions involving torture, Amnesty International
said today, after 11 people convicted of terrorism-related offences were
hanged in Baghdad.
The execution of the 11, including one woman, took place yesterday in
spite of attempts by the Tunisian authorities to obtain a pardon for a Tunisian national, Yosri Trigui, who was sentenced to death for his alleged
involvement in an attack against the al-'Askari Shi'a Muslim Shrine in
Samarra in 2006. The attack sparked an eruption of sectarian violence.
Trigui, who had been living in Iraq since 2003, was arrested in 2006 by
US forces for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts. He was also convicted
of the killing of a female Iraqi journalist from the Al Arabiya TV channel,
Atwar Bahjat. Amnesty has previously voiced concern that Trigui's trial
did not appear to meet international standards.
Meanwhile, a further 10 people are reportedly due to be executed in Iraq
today.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Acting Director
Philip Luther said:
"While the Iraqi government has the right to bring to justice those
responsible for serious crimes, the death penalty violates the right to life
and should not be used in any case.
"Given the appalling state of Iraq's justice system, it is questionable whether
these 11 people received a fair trial.
"Iraq must immediately commute the death sentences of the hundreds of
people remaining on death row in the country. The authorities must also
ensure that trials meet international standards for fair trial, and are not based
on confessions extracted under torture and other ill-treatment."
Trials in Iraq consistently fall short of international standards for fair trials. The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), established by the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003 after the US-led military invasion of the country, is the main criminal court, which handles crimes relating to terrorism, sectarian violence, organised crime and government corruption. The court has handed down the vast majority of death sentences.
Defendants in Iraq frequently complain that "confessions" are extracted under torture and other ill-treatment during pre-trial interrogation, often when they were held incommunicado in police stations or in detention. Defendants are often not brought before an investigative judge within a reasonable time and not told of the reason for their arrest. "Confessions" extracted from them are often used as evidence against them at their trials and accepted by the courts without taking any or adequate steps to investigate defendants' allegations of torture. Such "confessions" have also frequently been broadcast on the Iraqi government-controlled satellite TV station Al Iraqiya. This practice undermines the presumption of innocence, which is a fundamental human right.
Trial proceedings before the CCCI are very brief, often lasting only a few minutes before verdicts are handed down.
Staying on legal, Nouri's been crying 'Ba'athist!' to take out political opponents. This issue was even raised in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday -- Senator Scott Brown raised it and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated the White House was concerned over the arrests. From Ava's report at Trina's site Tuesday night:
Brown noted the crackdown taking place in Iraq on Nouri's political opponents, them being arrested and held without charge. He asked Panetta, "Are you concerned with these types of arrests and whether it will either require us to have a larger foot print or how it's going to be effected by our footprint being reduced?"

Panetta responded, "I am concerned by the actions the Prime Minister took with regards to arresting the Ba'athists." Love how he just went with Nouri's language. These are, by all accounts, ex-Ba'athists.

Panetta then stated, "I think that -- and they're being held at this point without charges and that raises concerns about due process. At the same time, I have to say that the Sunnis -- and it's a reflection of what's happened in Iraq -- that the Sunni population there recognizes that even in light of that that their actions ought to take place through the actions of government. And they're bringing their pressure through the Parliament and through the government to try to change that behavior and I think that's what democracy should do." Yea! A victory!

Reality: Nouri is fighting those moves.

Panetta wants to sell political targeting as evidence of a democracy. He clearly thinks the Committee is composed of idiots.



Al Sabaah reports that security sources are stating there is another list of 'Ba'athists' to be arrested in Dhi Qar. Al Rafidayn adds that the list has approximately 50 names on it. In other disturbing news, Al Mada reports that Iraqi security forces in Baghdad arrested a group of youths who were speaking to one another about the unemployment problem while eating a meal at a restaurant. The forces follwed the young people home and arrested them -- after forcing their way into the youth's homes. At least six people were arrested. One is Ashraf Mohamed whose mother states who explained that she was worried about her son's where abouts and after checking with the hospitals and police was told he was being held in detention. The secret arrests are being compared to the Iraqi security forces February 25th attack on four journalists who were at a restaurant eating lunch after covering the protest in Baghdad's Tahrir Square -- they were publicly beaten, hauled off and then tortured. One of the four was Hadi al-Mehdi who was assassinated September 8th and the government has made no effort to find his killer.

Political Stalemate I was a period in Iraq following the March 7, 2010 elections. It ended in November of 2010 only as a result of a meet-up in Erbil and the political parties signing off on an agreement in which all but State of Law made political concessions. The results of the March 7th elections, even after Nouri al-Maliki bitterly contested them and stamped his feet until a few post-election votes were tossed his way, were that Iraqiya came in first and Nouri's political slate State of Law came in second. Iraqis do not elect their prime minister, the Parliament does. Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, should have had first crack at forming a government. First crack? You become prime minister-designate and then have thirty days to name a Cabinet (nominate people for positions and have Parliament vote in favor of them). If you can't accomplish that in 30 days, per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate is supposed to be named.

Nouri al-Maliki refused to surrender the post of prime minister. So the March 7th elections were followed by over 8 months of gridlock, Political Stalemate I. The Erbil Agreement found all but State of Law making major concessions so that the country could pull together. (During that eight month period, Parliament had one session which was little more than roll call.) Iraqiya, the winner in the elections, was supposed to see their leader (Allawi) head an independent security commission, the KRG was promised Article 140 would finally be followed (Article 140 of the Constitution addresses disputed territories such as Kirkuk -- it calls for a census and referendum to be held in Kirkuk by the end of 2007. Nouri was prime minister then and refused to implement Article 140.) Many promises were made but the only one that concerned Nouri was that he would remain prime minister.

With all sides signing off on the Erbil Agreement, it appeared that Iraq would be moving forward on a national level. Nouri was named prime minister-designate (unofficially named, Jalal Talabani would wait two weeks before making it official to give Nouri 30 days plus two weeks to form a Cabinet). Before November drew to a close, Nouri would announce the planned census to take place in December was off. He would claim that the national security commission had to be put on hold but would be created earlier. By the time he was illegally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister, Iraq was in Political Stalemate II. And that's where it has remained. Illegally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister? The Constitution says 30 days to name Cabinet. That's not 'partial' cabinet, that's the full Cabinet. Nouri did not name a full Cabinet. Most importantly he said he would 'temporarily' fill the security ministries -- Defense, National Security and Interior.

The Kurds, the National Alliance and Iraqiya have all called for the Erbil Agreement to be followed ("the Kurds" does not include Goran). Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Nouri and Iraqi president (and Kurd) Jalal Talabani have met and that steps are being taken to resolve the issues -- of course this has repeatedly been reported for months now with no resolution as of yet. Nouri and Talabani are said to be on the same page regarding the issues. If true, this should be a big surprise to the Kurdish delegation that visited Baghdad weeks ago and found no resolution or mutual understanding with Nouri. Dar Addustour adds that supposedly the two agreed that the three security ministries must be filled. Iraqiya tells Dar Addustour that Ayad Allawi is due back in Iraq and that there will be some important developments shortly. All options are open, their spokesperson states, including a vote of no-confidence for Nouri.

Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri held a press conference yesterday announcing and promoting a bill that, if passed, would give the provinces more say in their own affairs -- such as implementing water and health projects. Nouri's always so good about making statements to garner support. It's following up those statements with actual action that Nouri has problems with.

Moving over to England where Murray Wardrop (Telegraph of London) reports, "The panel, led by Sir John Chilcot, had been expected to deliver its initial conclusions by the end of the year, but yesterday announced that it was postponing the draft report until 'at least Summer 2012'. The inquiry is being held up in delivering its findings as it is locked in negotiations with Whitehall officials over how much information it can release in classified documents." The Iraq Inquiry. An official inquiry -- promised by Gordon Brown -- a government inquiry in fact. And the results are delayed again due to, yes, government secrecy. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) adds, "The inquiry makes it clear that Whitehall departments are continuing to block the disclosure of documents about the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Iraq." BBC News reminds, "At one hearing in early 2010, inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot expressed his frustration about his committee's inability to publish certain classified documents relating to Iraq policy. Although the committee could see these documents, their public release had not been sanctioned by the government - a move also criticised by Lord Goldsmith, attorney general in the run-up to war."

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