Saturday, April 23, 2011

Only two women

The first hour of Friday's The Diane Rehm Show the guests were Clarence Page, Susan Davis and Byron York. The second hour? The guests were Daniel Dombey, Susan Glasser and David Ignatius.

Six guests, two were women and four were men. Diane keeps bringing

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

Friday, April 22, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the White House confirms talks are going on with Iraq re: US troops, protests continue in Iraq and continue to be largely ignored by the US media, and more.
Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) report, "In Iraq, top U.S. military officials believe that leaving a sizeable force beyond this year could bolster Iraqi stability and serve as a check on Iran, the major American nemesis in the region, officials said. U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel have echoed the concern that if the U.S. pulls out completely, Iran could extend its influence." The two note that the talks have been regarding ten thousand US forces remaining in Iraq and that a big sticking point appears to be concern that US forces remaining on the ground past December 31, 2011 may feed into the discontent already gripping the region. The reporters note, "Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets in recent months, demanding better basic services and an end to government corruption. Baghdad responded last week by imposing a ban on protests on the streets of the capital." Al Mada reports that Nouri al-Maliki insisted on Iraqi television that it's a "no" to a new security agreement (or an extension). Nouri's good about making those statements in public . . . and privately doing just the opposite. This may or may not be another example of that. Christopher Islam (CBS News) reports that Adm Mike Mullen stated today that if US forces are to remain beyond December 31, 2011, then the US will need to be planning "soon, very soon" and, Islam adds, "One senior Iraqi politician told CBS News that the Iraqi Security Forces are simply not ready to assume responsibility for security and that, in addition to the problems addressed by Mullen, they lacked sufficient command and control, surveillance and electronic counter-measures that have been instrumental in reducing the violence in the country during the past four years." Though some early reports today -- after Barnes and Entous' exclusive report -- insisted that there were no talks taking place on this issue, the White House confirmed that talks were underway. Nicholas Johnston (Bloomberg News) reports, "The U.S. is discussing with Iraq whether some U.S. troops will remain in the country to assist with security even though no requests for assistance have been made, White House press secretary Jay Carney said." Carney is quoted stated, "We are also in negotiations, discussions with the Iraqis about what their security needs are and will be in the future." Meanwhile Anne Johnson (WRAL) reports that next month Fort Bragg's 83nd Airborne Division deploys members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team to Iraq.

It's Friday, protests continue in Iraq. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "A party from the Union of Fallujah Lawyers led by their Secretary General, Saeed Al - Fallahi have arrived in Ahrar." That's Ahrar Square in Mosul and click here for some photos of that protest. And they note, "My freinds, it seems that in spite of all the killing the demonstrators are still arriving in Ahrar and there are now over 100,000 people there!" and "Sahar Al Mawssawi is speaking live now - she is in Al Ahrar and describing the scene - she says that the numbers of troops sent from Baghdad are even more than the number of American troops when they first invaded Iraq - she says that they do not understand why the government is so frightened of peaceful unarmed demonstrators - she also says that they want the Occupation OUT and that anyone who asks for them to stay should be expelled. She also says that they hold the Al Iraqiya Satellite station responsible for all the disappearances from Tahrir Square."
The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Al Hurra Al Iraqiya spoke live to us, a few minutes ago, telling us how the women of Mosul were forced to walk through lakes of cess with their children to discourage them from going to Ahrar, this morning, but to these criminals' surprise, the women pressed on and got to Ah,rar! She continued saying they have forcd us to turn into ferocious animals for our rights and for our country." Ghannam's cronies attacked "a group of young men in Al Noor District," "Thousands of young revolutionaries at the 4th Bridge being attacked by Ghannam's troops and being barred from proceeding to Ahrar" and they "raided Shaikh Barzan Al Badrani's home in an attempt to arrest him, today, but failed to do so!" In addition, "largest Turkeman Tribe, al Lehaie Beq have joined the Vigil!" And they report:
Al Ahrar was joined by a large contingent of supporters from all of Baghdad's districts including the Thawra and in The Tahrir, Baghdad they were singing and chanting "from Baghdad to Mosul". Tahrir was sad as well as wonderful - sad and tragic - a mother with three missing lovely young men crying her eyes and heart out - a sister ...with five missing brothers who was lucky enough to have located one of her brothers in one of the prisons through the Rafidain Satellite Station - young men - young industrialists - it was awful - exhausting - they just want to get rid of the occupation and Maliki and his gang. They are no longer interested in electricity or food or employment - gthey just want him out and they want their men and women out of the secret prisons - a third and a fourth - all mothers and sisters - terrible..... terrible..... Listen to them - My God! when is this hell going to end for Iraqis?????
DPA reports, "Iraqi police and military forces fired shots in the air to disperse hundreds of people in a northern Iraqi city who gathered Friday to protest against the US presence in the country, witnesses said." In addition, they note that protesters were out in Baghdad including women carrying photos of their loved ones who've disappeared into the Iraqi 'justice' system. Dar Addustour reports on the protest in Baghdad today and banners calling for the release of detainees, improved public services, an end to corruption and an end to the US occupation of Iraq. Today Human Rights Watch issued an alert about the ongoing crackdown on protesters in Iraq and this is the section on Baghdad:
Iraqi security forces in Baghdad are detaining and abusing activists in connection with protests against the chronic lack of basic services and perceived widespread corruption. On April 8, security forces in a vehicle with markings from the 43rd Brigade of the Army's 11th Division, arrested Nabil at the end of a peaceful protest at Tahrir Square. He was immediately transferred to other security forces in civilian clothing, and held for a week.
Released on April 15, Nabil, an organizer of the February 25 Group - one of several groups planning demonstrations in the capital - told Human Rights Watch that he had been beaten repeatedly while his hands were held behind his back with plastic zip-ties, and often while blindfolded. He said his captors also used a stun gun on his arms, chest, and back.
"I heard them giving orders to shock us and hit us only below the neck, so there wouldn't be any marks. They shocked me and hit me on the arms and back and chest," he said. "I got a cut on my head that was bleeding, and one of the guards yelled at another who caused it. 'Why did you make him bleed? He is a son of a bitch and will make a scandal for us. Do not leave any marks. Hit him in places where there will be no marks.'"
Nabil said his captors went through his cell phone and told him, "We know all these numbers, and we are watching and listening to all your calls.'"
Nabil had previously been arrested on March 22, and Human Rights Watch witnessed signs of physical abuse immediately after his release from that detention. Human Rights Watch sent inquiries about Nabil's arrest and others to the offices of the prime minister and security officials but has received no response from authorities.
On April 13, security forces entered the adjoining offices of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) and the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), where the February 25 Group has held meetings in Baghdad. The security forces arrested one of the group's members, Firas Ali, who has peacefully participated in several of the Tahrir Square demonstrations.
A protester detained in early April for taking part in demonstrations at Tahrir Square told Human Rights Watch upon his release that he saw Ali inside a prison in Baghdad's Old Muthanna Airport. The witness said Ali was being held with more than two dozen protesters, 20 of whom were detained on the day of the April 15 demonstration.
Human Rights Watch is also concerned about Haydar Shihab Ahmad, also from the February 25 Group, who has been missing since April 1, just after taking part in that day's demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. Members of his family told Human Rights Watch that they have made several inquiries at prisons in Baghdad in unsuccessful attempts to locate him, and have received no official reply about whether he has been detained.
"Iraqi authorities need to release any peaceful protester held incommunicado and without charge, and account for those it is charging with a criminal offense," Stork said.
Iraqi authorities have taken several steps to eliminate protests in the capital from public view. On April 13, officials issued new regulations barring street protests and allowing them only at three soccer stadiums.
"We have specified Al-Shaab, Kashafa and Zawraa stadiums as permitted sites for demonstrations in Baghdad instead of Ferdus or Tahrir squares," Baghdad's security spokesman, Major General Qassim Atta, said at a news conference televised by the state broadcaster, Iraqiyya TV. "Many shop owners and street vendors have called us and complained to us because demonstrations have affected their work and the movement of traffic."
In late February, Iraqi police allowed dozens of assailants to beat and stab peaceful protesters in Baghdad. In the early hours of February 21, dozens of men, some wielding knives and clubs, attacked about 50 protesters who had set up two tents in Tahrir Square. During nationwide February 25 protests, security forces killed at least 12 protesters across the country and injured more than 100. On that day, Human Rights Watch observed Baghdad security forces beating unarmed journalists and protesters, smashing cameras, and confiscating memory cards.
Mosul and Baghdad are only some of the areas protesting continue in. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, the KRG (northern Iraq) is also seeing continued protests:

Kurdish leaders, facing popular protest against corrupt and undemocratic government in Iraqi Kurdistan, on Wednesday turned to Baghdad for help in quelling demonstrations that have rocked the Kurdish capital of Sulaymaniyah. Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq and also head of the old-line Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, is said to have requested help from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; a source in Sulaymaniyah said that Talabani depends on a 3,000-man "security force" that is largely Arab.
The Sulaymaniyah source said that when Talabani appeared there Monday in an effort to calm demonstrators, protesters began chanting: "Mu-bar-ak, Mu-bar-ak," in a reference to the deposed Egyptian president. Talabani's colleague in the PUK, Burham Salih, this week reportedly offered to resign as president of Iraqi Kurdistan to halt the protests.
"There have been mafia-style practices used against the free media in the region," said Salih's letter in an unusually blunt criticism of the Kurdish leadership, according to Agence France-Presse. The AFP said 95 people were wounded in clashes between police and security forces in Sulaymaniyah Sunday and Monday, and seven more on Tuesday.

Mohideen Mifthah (AFP via Sri Lanka Sunday Times) notes that the "near-daily demonstrations" in the region are contributing to the creation of a new image for the KRG. Mifthah also notes, "A poll conducted by the Washington-based International Republican Institute in December offered hints for the causes behind the anger in Sulaimaniyah. Some 62% of respondents in Sulaimaniyah said Kurdish MPs were not listening to their needs, and 35% said the economic situation in Kurdistan was either 'somewhat bad' or 'very bad,' both of which were the highest in the region." Frank Smyth (Committee to Protect Journalism) observes:

[. . .] in recent months more than 150 Iraqi Kurdish journalists have been injured or attacked, according to the local Metro Center to Defend Journalists. One journalist was murdered three years ago in Kirkuk after uncovering evidence of government corruption. But most of the journalists who find themselves more recently under siege have been covering violent clashes between the Kurdish security forces and protestors in Sulaymaniyah.
This rise in attacks against the press was the backdrop for the conference, aptly named "Safety for Press is Safety for All" and held Thursday in the Kurdish capital of Arbil. Sponsored by the non-governmental Independent Media Centre for Kurdistan, the conference brought together dozens of journalists, along with Iraqi Kurdish government officials such as the minister of culture and a number of mid-level police and security force commanders. I was asked to give a global perspective on how the situation for the press here compares with other parts of the world before we began discussing the issues along with possible solutions.
One thing that united everyone in the room and that unites almost everyone in Iraqi Kurdistan is the Kurdish-speaking population's long struggle for autonomy. The pesh merga or "those who die together" armed militias continue to dominate Kurdistan today after having fought for decades as guerrilla groups against various Iraqi governments based in Baghdad. Among the movement's most revered events is the "intifada" or attempted "shaking off" of Saddam Hussein's regime in 1991 after the Gulf War. Thousands were killed and far more became refugees after the attempted overthrow failed.
The conference came at a time when the KRG was receiving more and more criticism. Ibrahim Alsragey tweeted this week, "Demanded the Iraqi Association for Defending the rights of journalists, on Tuesday, Iraqi Council of Representatives to take immediate action to stop violence against journalists in Kurdistan." Human Rights Watch's alert today also covered the KRG:
In the afternoon of April 18 in Arbil, the Kurdistan capital, dozens of armed men in civilian clothes attacked students from the Kurdistan region's largest university, Salahadin, as they tried to hold a demonstration. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the assailants also attacked journalists and at least one member of parliament.
A third-year Salahadin student told Human Rights Watch that a large group of organized assailants wearing civilian clothes attacked the protesters with brute force.
"We chanted 'freedom, freedom,' and then security forces came and abolished the demonstration," the student said. "They were hitting people by knives and sticks ... and arrested 23 protesters."
The assailants beat Muhamad Kyani, a member of the Iraqi national parliament for the opposition party Goran (Change) List, and his bodyguard while they were walking away from the demonstration. "There was no violence from us, nothing happened from our side to incite them," Kyani told Human Rights Watch. "I was on my way to the car when the Asayish [the official security agency for the Kurdistan region] threw me to the ground and started to kick and beat me." Kyani had two black eyes and other minor injuries from the beating. "They just wanted to intimidate and insult me and those with me," he said. "During the beating they swore at us and called me a traitor."
Reporters without Borders documented attacks on at least 10 journalists covering the April 18 protest. The group said assailants also detained numerous journalists, including Awara Hamid of the newspaper Rozhnam, Bahman Omer of Civil Magazine, Hajar Anwar, bureau chief of the Kurdistan News Network, and Mariwan Mala Hassan, a KNN reporter, as well as two of the station's cameramen.
Shwan Sidiq of Civil Magazine was hospitalized after the assailants broke his hand. "My hand is broken, my head still hurts," he told Human Rights Watch. "What I saw was what in 1988 Saddam Hussein did against me and my family."
Security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the two ruling parties there, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, have used repressive measures against journalists since the start of the protests in Iraq on February 17. The local press freedom group Metro Center has documented more than 150 cases of attacks and harassment of Kurdish journalists since February 17. In March, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 20 journalists covering the protests in Kurdistan.
"Time and again we found that security forces and their proxies violate journalists' freedom of expression through death threats, arbitrary arrests, beatings, harassment, and by confiscating and vandalizing their equipment," Stork said.
In Sulaimaniya, daily clashes since April 17 have injured more than 100 protesters, journalists, and security forces. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that on April 17 security forces fired live ammunition into the air to clear protesters blocking a road, while others shot into the crowd indiscriminately, wounding at least seven demonstrators.
"Police and security forces used everything to attack us," one protester told Human Rights Watch. "They opened fire, threw stones, used sticks and their Kalashnikovs to keep us from demonstrating."
Protest organizers told Human Rights Watch that on April 18, security forces violently seized control of Sara Square, the center of daily protests in Sulaimaniya since February 17, and demolished the protesters' podium. Security forces have fanned out across the city and have refused to allow protesters back to the site - renamed Azadi (Freedom) Square by demonstrators - resulting in clashes on April 18 and 19.
From the Great Iraqi Revolution, we're noting this exchange:
Ahmad H Al-Shaibani
There is an obvious "blackout" in mainstream media and press on the freedom movement and revolution in Iraq. Even AlJazeera is shying away from giving true coverage of the events. Help break this scandelous silence . Support our sisters and brothers who are risking their lives for a truly free Iraq. Spread the word... Iraqis want to be free of the US imported and Iranian fostered "Democracy".
Lamya Källner where are the media? there is not one news channel wicht reports abut that.. wehre is the world..
Where is the world media? Not Al Jazeera of course. This week, the network gave us a lovely -- and I mean that with all the sarcasm I can muster -- report on the rowing team which can only row in Baghdad but that was kind of glossed over, wasn't it? But Al Jazeera isn't interested in the Iraqi protests. That comes from a British friend with the network. He told me Inside Iraq was about to be killed -- and it was -- because Nouri didn't care for it. Nouri was far from the only one complaining. His opinion mattered though -- for the same reason that the protests are down played. Al Jazeera wanted back into Iraq. So when Nouri complained, the decision was made to kill the program. Jasim al-Azzawi was not on vacation during the weeks after the decision was made when guest hosts filled in. If he were on vacation, he wouldn't have been writing all of those columns in the Arab media (a number of which we highlighted here in real time). The network was 'kind' enough to allow Jasim to return for the last episode of his show. And then Nouri got the only program Al Jazeera needed to air cancelled. Does anyone really believe the "America, what a freak show!" program (if you watch Al Jazeera, you know the one I'm talking about) is needed? Hell no. That program's a joke turning blips on the radar in the US into 'major trends'. And don't you find it strange that when Jasim's show was killed, with all the events going on in Iraq, only Riz managed to show any interest and not any sustained interest.
It's because the network suits made the deal to get Al Jazeera back in Iraq. Al Jazeera had a troubled time in Iraq and was almost thrown out in April 2003. It managed to hand onto its Baghdad office until August 7, 2004 at which point, then-prime minister Ayad Allawi announced in a press conference that the Baghdad office was being closed because 'an independent commission' had monitored the coverage from Al Jazeera and found bias and coverage that would 'incite.' (Hoshyar Zebari, the country's Foreign Minister since 2006 and it's interim foreign minister before that, began calling for its closure publicly in the summer of 2004.)
After six years of dialogue and many concessions on the part of Al Jazeera, last March Al Jazeera was finally again allowed to reopen the Baghdad bureau. And I'm not critizing the correspondents. I'm talking about the deal made by the executives. CNN correspondents, for example, weren't happy before the start of the illegal war with the deal CNN crafted to have a Baghdad office. And, of course, after the war started, Eason Jordan confessed from the op-ed pages of the New York Times in a column entitled "The News We Kept To Oursevles." That April 11, 2003 piece opened: "Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard -- awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff." So, Jordan wrote, they couldn't report on torture and targeted murders -- although he did call King Hussein of Jordan to warn him his life was in danger. If you were royalty, you got a warning. Sadly, lower down the rung you got no warning and you got no coverage. He concluded with, "I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely."
And Eason is right. Today any story about Hussein's corruption or torture or any other crimes can be freely discussed by the media. However, Iraqis wanting to discuss what they're experiencing under Nouri al-Maliki or Massoud Barzani are finding they can talk all they want but the western media isn't going to cover it. Maybe in twenty years, after another illegal war, a new Eason will emerge? Or maybe we should say "a new Mohammed Jassem al-Ali"? That was the Al Jazeera chief executive, a few may remember, who had to step down from his post in May of 2003 when rumors -- coming from Ahmed Chalabi -- tied three Al Jazeera correspondents with the role of spinning for Saddam Hussein's government as official Al Jazeera policy under the orders of Mohammed Jassem al-Ali. Al Jazeera denied the rumors. But they did force al-Ali's resignation. Kim Sengupta filed an even handed report on the entire matter for the Independent of London. The NewsHour (PBS) devoted a segment to the controversy that followed Eason Jordan's column confessions and Franklin Foer offered, "Well it was certainly startling to hear Eason Jordan's admission that CNN had sat on some pretty major stories, stories of torture, murder, assassination plots, but I argued that this was merely symptomatic of a larger problem that western media has in covering dictatorships. In a place like Iraq in order to get your cameras in central locales, in order to get your reporters on the ground, you need to make incredible compromises to the government. You need to subject yourself to constant surveillance by government minders who . . . you need to negotiate with the information ministry to even obtain permission to shoot your camera at a specific angle." Or as George Michael once put it, much more succinctly and much more rhythmically, "There's little things you hide, and little things that you show, sometimes you think you're going to get it but you don't and that's just the way it goes."
Thug Nouri never tires of power-grabs. Al Mada reports Nazem Ferman Al Abboudi is out and Mohssen Rissan is in as the head of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal. Nouri fired Abboudi. At issue is said to be 50 Land Cruisers which were purchased for twice the sticker price.
In today's violence, Reuters notes a burnt corpse was discovered in Kirkuk and that late yesterday a Ramadi roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers with two more injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports a Sahwa shot dead another Sahwa late yesterday in Kirkuk and an 11-year-old boy was kidnapped in Kirkuk yesterday.
Catholic Culture notes that Pope Benedict has taped a radio and TV special for Good Friday, to air on Vatican Radio, in which he takes questions "from listeners all around the world". BBC News adds, "Those selected to put their question include an Italian mother whose son was in a coma for many years and a young Japanese girl affected by the recent devastating earthquake and tsunami. Others reportedly putting questions include seven Christian students in Iraq and a Muslim mother from the conflict-torn Ivory Coast." Rachel Donadio (New York Times) reports, "In the television question-and-answer session on Friday, the pope urged Christians in wartorn Iraq 'to resist the temptation to emigrate, which is very understandable in the conditions they are living in'."
Yesterday's snapshot noted multiple instances of my disagreeing with Gareth Porter's take on Iraq. Cleary, (see opening paragraphs including White House confirmation), Gareth was wrong about the SOFA. In terms of Moqtada al-Sadr, we disagree. Gareth sees him as powerful and unstoppable. And I noted he does what Iran tells him to do with a long list of examples provided of Moqtada making a statement and then caving. Gareth may be right on Moqtada and I may be wrong (or we could be both be wrong). But an e-mail defending Gareth argued that if Moqtada does Iran's bidding (my assertion, not Gareth's) that would mean if US forces stayed on the ground in Iraq because of a deal Nouri made, Moqtada would go after Nouri with Iran's prompting.
Possibly.

I don't happen to agree with that. I feel that the US government has repeatedly used the Iranian government and the Iranian government has repeatedly used the US government. They're kind of like the Democratic and Republican parties. If the US leaves, Iran faces full on wrath. Now some Iraqis can be glad for Iran's influence. By the same token some are glad for the US influence (occupation) but when the US leaves (and it will leave at some point -- whether that's the start of 2012 or years from now), Iran will face more anger than it does currently. Both the US and Iran play their games with Iraq and benefit from one another. My opinion. (Among the benefits? Both sides repeatedly having the opportunity to bash and demonize the other. Often those speeches seem less for Iraqi audiences or even international ones and purely for domestic consumption in the US or Iran.)
Roshanank Taghavi (Time magazine) reports today on Iran's complicated relationship with its neighbor:
Iran has counted on the shortage of Iraqi oil production as a buffer against potential sanctions on purchases of Iranian crude, says the Tehran-based analyst. Although Iraq is currently excluded from OPEC's quota system, Iranian oil officials admit they are worried that the resurgence of its historical rival will affect Tehran's standing within the organization. (Baghdad and Tehran clashed over OPEC production targets before Iran's 1979 revolution and during the 1980s, when the two countries were engaged in an eight-year war.) While Iran has increased influence in Baghdad nowadays because of the country's Shi'ite-dominated government, that is not likely to diminish Iraq's determination to rehabilitate its war-hobbled petroleum industry.
The continued rise of Iraq's production capacity could, in the wake of an oil glut and international economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, endanger Iran's standing as OPEC's second largest oil exporter. Already Iran has lost some of its market share to Iraq, which has better technology and can offer lower prices for similar grades of crude. "Some of Iraq's customers came to us after it occupied Kuwait and again in 2003 after Saddam Hussein fell with the U.S. invasion," says an official from Iran's national oil company, speaking from Tehran on condition of anonymity. "Now, because of Iran's political situation and difficulties with sanctions, those customers are going back to Iraq."
Lastly, Mohamed ElBaradei has a new book entitled The Age of Deception which comes out on Tuesday. And a large number of people are going to be aware of the book by the former UN chief nuclear inspector because, in the book, AP reports, he offers "that Bush administration officials should face international crime investigation for the shame of a needless war."
TV note, Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes:
Mount Athos
Bob Simon steps back in time when he gets rare access to monks in ancient monasteries on a remote Greek peninsula who have lived a Spartan life of prayer in a tradition virtually unchanged for a thousand years. Cameras capture the monastic life, including chanting, prayers, rituals, and the priceless relics and icons from the Byzantine Empire stored on "The Holy Mountain," Mt. Athos. (This is a double-length segment.) | Watch Video

The Billionaire
Eli Broad sets the standard for philanthropy. He's given away over $2 billion and plans on leaving even more to charity before he dies. But along with the billionaire's name that most projects he funds must take, his advice and oftentimes his control are usually part of the deal. Morley Safer reports. |
Watch Video

"60 Minutes," Sunday, April 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

6 men, 2 women

Okay, The Diane Rehm Show. The first hour was Paul Christo, Nora Volkow, Charles Horner and Robert Dupont. The second hour was Ross Douthat, Ron Elving, Susan Page and James Thurber. 8 guests, six were men. See a pattern?


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


Thursday, April 21, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, a governor joins the protests, a historian and journalist seems unaware of pattern, and more.
Protests continue in Iraq. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "The notorious Nasser Al Ghannam could not put a stop to the Free of Mosul -- after imposing a curfew last night starting at 1.00 a.m. this morning he proceeded with his troops to cut off all bridges and roads as well as arrest people who were marching to the Square of the Free -- HOWEVER, Atheel Al Nujaifi joined a huge demonstrations to the Square of the Free and broke the blockade. Well done Atheel Al Nujaifi! I wonder whether he has started seeing the light!" That's major news. Atheel Al Nujaifi (also spelled Athil al-Nujaifi) is the brother of the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi which, all by itself, would make his participation news worthy. But al-Nujaifi holds office himself -- he's Governor al-Nujaifi, governor of Nineveh. And Nasser Al Ghannam? He's the Iraqi Army's Second Division Chief. DPA explains the curfew which began at 1:00 was to then go on all day. Rizan Ahmed (AK News) reminds, "The governer of Nineveh Athiel al-Nujaifi announced last Tuesday that the Ahrar Square is opened for peaceful demonstrations and protests, in a direct escalation, despite the official appeals from the federal government to stop demonstrations and protests. Ahmed reports, "Director of Information department of Nineveh province said Thursday that a force of the Iraqi army clashed with the protection forces of the governor of Nineveh Athiel al-Nujaifi after the prevention of a demonstration led by the latter to Ahrar Square to join the protest organized by groups from Mosul since 12 days demanding of the departure of 'occupation' and the implementation of government promises and the release of detainees." In addition, Aswat al-Iraq reports attorneys demonstrated in Falluja with a sit-in calling for the release of 'detainees' and the departure of US troops from Iraqi soil.
Meanwhile Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports objections to "a government edict last week, restricting rallies in Baghdad to its two main sports stadiums, is being seen as unconstitutional and has raised questions over the government's ability to meet protesters' demands." 15th of March Movement activist Ali al-Fredawi is quoted stating, "The government is swing away from democracy. Banning protests and locking demonstrators inside a stadium is illegal and unconstitutional. The governement decision clearly shows its fear of mounting rage among Iraqis at the blundering performance of (Prime Minister Nuri)." From Michele Naar-Obed's "The least reported unarmed revolution in the Middle East" (Christian Peacemaker):
Daily, thousands of demonstrators flood the city center -- now dubbed "Freedom Square" -- of Suleimaniya, Iraq. There have been eight civilian deaths in Suleimaniya city and scores of injuries resulting from armed government forces opening fire with live ammunition into the crowds. Government security forces killed five unidentified people alleged to be terrorists outside of Suleimaniya. During the imposed curfew, government forces and armed militia positioned themselves throughout the city of Suleimaniya and surrounding Freedom Square. An independent television station was burned to the ground. Suleimaniya students studying in Erbil universities were sent back to Suleimaniyah and government authorities set up roadblocks around the city of Erbil to prevent Suleimaniya cars from entering. There have been assassination attempts against religious leaders advocating for this nonviolent revolution. The Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament has held emergency sessions to negotiate the demands of the people, but no agreements have arisen from these sessions.
Michele Naar-Obed (CPT) also reported Tuesday about the ongoing demonstratons in Suleimaniya in the Kurdistan Region:
Day 61 of Suleimaniya's daily demonstrations against corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan started early this morning. The CPT team arrived at 11:00. Music was playing from the stage and small groups of people were gathering. Two CPTers decided to use the quiet time to grab a cup of coffee and juice in a cafe next to the square. A few of the demonstration organizers were doing the same.
[. . .]
Then the mayhem began, with the forces launching tear gas. The people who were closest to it came running back towards the square with swollen eyes and faces. Some could not breath. Ambulances were nearby and ready to treat them. News came that the soldiers were moving closer to the square. The stench of the tear gas permeated the streets. Demonstrators set up barricades on the street and began burning tires in order to keep the soldiers from breaking into the square.
The sound of gunfire was prolonged and getting closer to the square. Shops along the street began to close down. Pedestrians ran towards the square to get away from the worst of the tear gas and the shooting. The team made contact with the U.S. Consulate by phone and stayed in contact throughout the day.
IPA notes, "Michele Naar-Obed works with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a human rights organization and has been based in Suleimaniya since 2006." And quotes her stating, "We are living in a military siege. Ten thousand troops are here occupying the city. … Arrests are ongoing. People are being beaten, gassed, and shot at. Now the troops have official permission to shoot in the legs. Yesterday, we heard that they could shoot to kill. This is for anyone that even remotely tries to form a demonstration anywhere. Last night there were official meetings with the U.S., PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has been headed by Jalal Talabani, who is president of Iraq] and [an] opposition party."
An eyewitness account from Slemani yesterday:"A number of shopkeepers saw a boy of around 14 years of age being beaten by three armed men dressed in uniform. The shopkeepers watched on while the boy was defiant as he was beaten north of Msgawti Gawra (the Large mosque in Slemani) and was chanting down with the regime, down, down ... The attack by the security forces became more ferocious and the boy started bleeding. Then the boy realized he could no longer take the beatings, he started crying begging them to stop. The shop keepers went into the boys aid by this time he was about to lose consciousness. The men managed to persuade the militiamen to let him go, and brought the boy back to one of the a shop. They gave him some water and let him rest away from the hands of the thugs. Half an hour later, although the boy has regained some composure but could clearly notice the anguish in his eyes. He said that he wants to go home to his mum and change his close as his shirt was torn and blood stained. He even forgot to thank the men who saved him and went on his way, but soon another group of around five armed security forces picked on him as they saw his blood stained shirt concluding he was protester. The boy this time was begging not to be beaten, but the heartless thugs twice his age set on him and started to beat him violently. This all happened very quickly and this time more shopkeepers and businessmen went to his aid. They managed to stop the beatings and eventually send the boy safely home. One of the businessmen who told the story was once a staunch PUK supporter and said:" Since I was a young man until today I have supported this party, but this is the beyond acceptable and they disgust me"."
We'll note the following paragraph from yesterday's snapshot:
This morning Nizar Latif (National Newspaper) weighed in on the proposed Baghdad summit for the Arab league, "The Iraqi government continues to insist the Arab League summit, scheduled for Baghdad next month, must go ahead. In reality however, few Iraqis expect their capital to host the meeting. Militant attacks, including recent car bombs in the heart of Baghdad, are a reminder of Iraq's persistent danger and the dogged insurgency that years of warfare and billions of dollars have failed to defeat." The summit was supposed to take place in March. It wasn't secure enough then. People pretend it is now. For how much longer or if the summit will be held next month in Baghdad is unknown. Press TV states Iraq may leave the Arab League. While that's in part, Iran's state media working off a grudge against its Arab neighbors, it's also true that Iran has a lot of pull in the puppet government out of Baghdad. AFP reports that the summit has been postponed -- again. It was supposed to be held March 29th but got delayed and then rescheduled to May 10th. The postponement was not a surprise to everyone. Aswat al-Iraq released their reader poll results this morning which found, "76.68% of the total 491 voters believed that the Arab Summit won't be held in Baghdad in its scheduled time, due to the current challenges facing the Arab Region." Alsumaria TV reports, "The Arab League has scheduled an urgent meeting for Arab Foreign Ministers on May 15 to set a new date for the Arab Summit and appoint a new Arab League Secretary General as a successor for Amro Moussa, [deputy secretary Ahmed] Ben Hill said." UPI explains, "The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council expressed outrage over Baghdad's criticism of the minority Sunni leadership in Bahrain, calling for the cancellation of an Arab League summit scheduled next month in Iraq. The tiny island kingdom is under scrutiny for its response to a Shiite uprising." Arab News adds that an unnamed Arab "League official said the summit will probably be held in September. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. [. . .] The Arab League summit was considered by many Iraqi officials as an opportunity to show off the strides the country has made since the height of the US-led war, and they have spent millions of dollars refurbishing buildings and hotels in anticipation of the meeting." Earlier this month, Al Mada reported that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, has declared holding the Arab Summitt in Baghdad (May 10th through 11th) will cost the country $450 million in US dollars. Lost money and lost prestige at a time when Iraq's puppet government is attempting to ignore the violence and pretend they are a democratic oasis in otherwise dry region. Ahmed Eleiba (Ahram) reports, "Iraq's Permanent Ambassador to the Arab League Qais Al-Azzawi said that his country respects the decision to delay the Arab summit, scheduled to be held in May in Baghdad, due to the current uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria."
Before the announcement was made, Roads to Iraq noted that Moqtada was insisting that events in Bahrain and the summit were two different issues:
This comes as a big blow to Ahmad Chalabi's efforts on the Bahrain issue, which has taken a sec­tar­ian dimen­sion. Cha­l­abi threat­ened that Iraq will inter­vene in Bahrain.
It seemed that the National Alliance (state law and the National Coali­tion) are no longer able to deal with the Arab sum­mit cri­sis and this started a test of power between Maliki and Nujaifi. Par­lia­ment Speaker Osama Nujaifi took the ini­tia­tive, and has stepped up his con­tacts in recent days in order to cre­ate the appro­pri­ate atmos­phere to hold the Arab sum­mit sched­uled in Bagh­dad next month.
Aswat al-Iraq notes the speculation that the summit, when/if held, will not take place in Baghdad. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that, on Sunday, the Nasser, an Iraqi ship, was anchored in a Bahrain port when the Bahraini military raided the ship, "attacking the crew" and holding them for hours. They maintain there was no justification for the attack. Ahlul Bayt News Agency adds, quoting a member of the Iraqi Parliament, "that a military force armed by the middle of the night last Sunday attacked the ship, which is carrying a crew Iraqis, taken at gunpoint to one of the parties in the dock and detained there for several hours and beaten severely humiliated." Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraq Ministry of Transportation said on Wednesday that Bahraini Security Forces attacked and knocked the crew of an Iraqi mercantile ship at Bahrain port and stressed that the attack was unjustified." Iraq's sea faring problems are usually with Iran. At this point, there are not a great deal of details and all the claims are coming from the Iraqi side. In addition, there's been no explanation for why a Sunday attack was not announced until Wednesday. This is the age of the internet, not the pony express. Nouri and some others in the government have a made a point to show solidarity with those protesting the government of Bahrain. Whether or not that factors into the assault or alleged assault remains open to speculation.

As do Nouri's dealings. Dar Addustour reports that Parliament's Integrity Commission cites Nouri al-Maliki in corrupt dealings such as obtaining commercial contracts -- urging them on a ministry -- which were a waste of money -- such as 2500 tons of milk which was rotten. That milk, by the way, came out of Iran. Alsumaria TV adds, "Iraq's parliamentary integrity committee announced early this month that it will refer to the Integrity Commission three corruption files concerning explosives detection devices, the construction of Sheala and Sadr cities and the Canadian planes issue. The files include more than 9000 documents that confirm the implication of ministers, deputy minsters, general directress and officers in corruption." Prior to the revelations, Nouri already had a difficult relationship with Parliament as he has attempted to take over committees that report them and has attempted to strip them of their right to write legislation (Nouri wants his Cabinet to write the legislation and hand it to Parliament only for a yes-or-no vote -- he wouldn't even allow amendments by the Parliament if he gets his way). Still on Iran, Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that the Iraqi agencies are so far unable to prevent the water drainage from Iran. The high saline factor of the water has made this a concern to Iraq. Muhammad Aadi, Minster of Water Resources, states that they are in contact with Iranian counterparts and that there is talk of diverting water while agricultural engineer Adnan Saeb notes that the salty water is threatening Iraq's land and waters and that it will be difficult to reduce the saline in the coming years. Saeb states this is a problem that usually takes years to fix.

And though Nouri's been signing his success story since 2006, there's never been any evidence of success. He's now been prime minister for five of the eight years of the Iraq War. New Sabah reports that the Ministry of Human Rights has announced they have 6,000 documented cases of child kidnapping since 2003. All but three of those years took place under Nouri's 'leadership.' Monday saw two suicide bombings at the entrance of the Green Zone. Gus Taylor (Trend Lines) notes those and other recent violence:


The bombings --- likely carried out by Sunni groups linked to al-Qaida -- could allow Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to strengthen his hold on power, says J. Edward Conway, a World Politics Review contributor and former U.S. Defense Department analyst covering Iraq.
"With the ongoing attacks, he's basically allowed to play the security card," Conway told Trend Lines this morning.
"Some are worried that al-Maliki is acting more and more like an authoritarian leader," he added. "He's yet to appoint anyone to head the Ministries of Defense and Interior, so he's presently acting as the de facto head of both, along with the Iraqi Special Forces."
Tuesday oil as a motive for the Iraq War was back in the news as a result of a major scoop, Paul Bignell (Independent) reported:

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."



The response has been typical. It's bad news for New Labour so the Guardian pretends the revelations didn't take place the same way they did with the Downing St. Memos (which the Times of London first reported on). And in the United States, most daily papers have worked overtime to avoid the topic while 'left' institutions like Democracy Now! have reduced it to a headline -- and not even the first headline of the day. The Progressive has had no time for the news. The Nation magazine which used to grandstand on the Iraq War (cover editorials on how they wouldn't support any Democratic politician who didn't call for an end to the Iraq War, for example) can't find time for it. All those (bad) bloggers at The Nation and not one of them can write a piece on the issue. How very telling. As the Beatles once sang, "See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly, I'm crying" ("I Am The Walrus" -- credited to Lennon & McCartney, written by John.) Thomas Ferguson (Huffington Post) points out, "It's time the rest of the story came out -- not because it is history, but because it is not. The U.S. is still in Iraq. Major decisions about the continuing presence of U.S. troops there loom just ahead. The major U.S. media have done little or nothing to investigate the story, though journalists working the U.K., notably Greg Palast, produced execellent reports on the subject. The endless chain of books about the Green Zone and corruption has not really gotten to the heart of the matter. As the U.S. deliberates about its next steps in Iraq, it is time somebody does."
Yesterday Jonathan Brown, Paul Bignell and Andy McSmith (Independent) reported:

Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 starkly spell out the importance of the issue, stating: "The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest."
The latest disclosures follow the publication yesterday of minutes of meetings held between senior oil-industry executives and government ministers in the run-up to the war -- despite official claims that no such talks occurred. The first of three documents assessing the situation in the immediate aftermath of the invasion sets out what is described as "required action" resulting from a meeting attended by representatives from key government departments including the Foreign Office, the then Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for International Development and the Treasury.
Officials cite the oil industry as the "first main target" when asked to establish "where specific prospects for British industry exist and ensure we are properly placed to take them". The group was also urged to consider when a "senior British oil industry person should go out to Iraq to survey the ground and, if appropriate, participate in [for example] the emerging Oil Advisory Board".
Two weeks later, London officials outlined a "desirable" outcome for Iraqi's crippled oil industry as "an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields".
Unlike The Nation, Antiwar.com has covered it and Justin Raimondo combined it with the newly started Libyan War to note:
A recent report issued by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets [Ofgem], the corporatist entity that regulates energy-related commerce in the UK, warns British consumers:
"Radical steps must be taken to safeguard UK power supplies and prevent
growing numbers of people being hit with energy bills they cannot afford, a watchdog has warned.
"Ofgem said failure to reform the energy system to free up the £200billion
investment needed to secure future supplies might lead to power shortages after
2015. Staying with the current market model was 'not an option', it said, due to
the unprecedented pressures of the financial crisis, environmental targets, dependency on imported gas and closure of aging power stations. "In a report,
the power watchdog said consumers would suffer unless urgent action was taken to free up investment in new power generation, such as renewables and nuclear energy. Ofgem made five suggestions, which all involve moving away from privatized energy markets towards a system giving the government greater control."
Projected rate hikes of 60 percent would hit consumers hard: in tandem with the government's much-hated austerity budget, this could be the spark that sets off a political and social conflagration. Faced with a combination of the oil truckers' protests that paralyzed Europe in 2000, and the "anti-cuts" riots of more recent vintage, the Conservative-LibDem government -- and, conceivably, the entire British political establishment -- would face certain demise.
The privatisation of its oil industry was central to the post-invasion plan for the country, according to previously unseen Whitehall documents. Certainly the U.S. tried to do this but was unsuccessful. Recall that while looters were allowed free sway to vandalise and steal objects from a Baghdad museum the oil ministry was guarded .
The Iraqis put up such a resistance to privatization that they U.S. backed off and tried to pass an oil law that would open up Iraqi oil to foreign investment. That did not work either. This law was one of the benchmarks of progress. There still is no oil law although the Kurds have signed their own agreements with foreign oil. Only PSA Production sharing agreements were put up for auction.

At WSWS, Robert Stevens explores the topic:

The mass of official documents confirm that, eight years on and following the death of an estimated 1 million civilians, the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq was indeed a war for oil.
The documents came to light only due to Freedom of Information requests over a period of five years by Greg Muttitt, an expert on Iraqi oil policy, who works for the British charity Platform. Muttitt has written a book, Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, published this week.
The documents illustrate the imperialist character of the war. The Independent notes: "BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf's existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world's leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take 'big risks' to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world."

In some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 1 police officer was wounded in a Baghdad shootings, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people, 6 corpses were discovered in Samarra, 1 person was shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to yesterday for the last two, Mosul's head of products for the Ministry of Oil distribution was injured in a Mosul shooting and 3 people were injured when a Baghdad liquor store was attacked.
Gareth Porter appears on Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio. I'm not quoting from it. There's another interview that I hope to carry over to Third on Sunday. We had to walk away from Porter in 2008 because, yes, he was a big Kool-Aid drinker and remained one over and over. I believe I pissed off Real News Network by refusing to link to various interviews they did with Porter. (Fine, I really don't care if they were pissed.) But those interviews were not fact based, they were complete fantasies. Reality slapped Gareth upside the head and brought him back down. We were glad to have him back here on earth.
But he's orbiting again.
I want to believe
If you tell me so
I want to believe
'Cause you oughta know
That kicking is hard
But the bottom's harder
So I'm taking your card
But I cannot get my head around it, baby
I cannot get my head around it, baby
'Cause that's just not the way
You make me feel
-- "I Can't Get My Head Around It," written by Aimee Mann, from her album The Forgotten Arm
Gareth comes across very needy and what do the needy need? Usually a Daddy to worship. Right now, that appears to be Moqtada al-Sadr. Gareth's convinced that Moqtada rules Iraq. I disagree (as do many governments' analysis) but I could bite my tongue and state that obviously I can be wrong. And often am. But I'm not in the mood for The Daddy Fairy Tales of 2008 again.
'Nouri forced concessions!!!! The SOFA would have been different!!!! Nouri pushed Bush around!!!!!' I'm so sick of those damn lies. I heard about the SOFA from friends in the State Dept throughout 2008. What I heard jibed with what the SOFA said when finally released by the White House. I've never understood where the demented fantasy of powerful puppet Nouri took root unless it was in the fact that Ryan Crocker was saying kind things about Nouri to the press. (Crocker was then-US Ambassador to Iraq.) Even with those comments out there, everyone knows Crocker is not a push over. The idea that he would be representing the US government and not able to hold his own is rather ridiculous. (Ryan Crocker was the first US official to sign the SOFA -- a fact that apparently was lost on Gareth -- and did so in November 2008. Not December 15th -- that signing ceremony was a photo op -- one I was told was going to be huge at the George W. Bush Library because, at that late date, according to friends in the State Dept, the White House still believed Iraq was going to go down as an "eventual success" and be the thing that polished Bush's reputation.)
Nouri had no "power" in the negotiations, especially not by the fall of 2008. Nouri was facing threats of a no-confidence vote in Parliament, he had massive defections in his Cabinet, had Gareth's all-powerful Moqtada pissed at him (due to the assaults on Basra and the Sadr City section of Baghdad in 2008) and wasn't delivering on any promises. Nouri had no power at all and if the US military left January 1, 2009, Nouri's government would have toppled (the opinion of the US State Dept and one that concerned Nouri as well). Concessions had been made to Nouri in the 2008 negotiation process early on. The three year aspect of the agreement being one of the big ones.
Why was that made? Until Gareth Porter can address that reality, he needs to stop speaking about the 2008 negotiations. The SOFA replaces the UN mandate for the occupation. The UN mandate covered one year. Nouri became prime minister in spring 2006. As 2006 wound down, he wanted to continue the occupation. He signed off on another year (his first time signing off) and when Parliment found out they were furious. He swore it would never happen again and that he would bring any renewal before Parliament. But then 2007 wound down. And Parliament learned Nouri had signed on for another year and not brought them into the process. The SOFA was three years to allow Nouri wiggle room and avoid annual end of the year pressure.
Nouri couldn't survive without the US military in 2008 (may be true even now). This idea that Nouri was strong-arming the US is ridiculous because he had no power and either the SOFA went through or the US military left. It had already been stated publicly -- at a Senate hearing -- in the summer of 2008 that it was too late to begin working on a renewal of the UN mandate. That meant it was the SOFA or nothing. If the SOFA hadn't gone through? The what-ifs there were outlined in 2008 by the current US Vice President Joe Biden. Gareth doesn't know any of this -- even now. It was obvious he didn't know what he was talking and writing about the SOFA back in 2008 and 2009 and up until he finally awoke to reality. We didn't awake to reality here. We never fell for St. Barack Man Of Peace. We never fell for the lie that the SOFA couldn't be renewed. We noted from the beginning it is a three year contract which can be followed, which can be renewed (or replaced) or which can be broken. This is all in the SOFA if you know contract law. Gareth didn't and his sources must not be very good -- or else just interested in gossipy tidbits -- because year after year he got the SOFA wrong. We didn't. If we had been wrong about the SOFA, right now I would have to be writing, "My mistake, my error, my apologies." And I would. I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong and I'm fully aware that I can be wrong and often am. I wasn't wrong about the SOFA.
If Gareth Porter's sources were so informed and accurate, Gareth wouldn't have been so wrong about the SOFA. He's never admitted he was wrong. And his wrong hurt. He is the 'historian' and the 'journalist' and a 'truth teller.' So his being wrong was much worse than other people's lies. (I say Gareth was wrong, not that he lied. That is my opinion.) He had a reputation (a good one, a strong one) and when he insisted the SOFA meant the end of the Iraq War, it carried weight. And encouraged people to stop participating in calls to end the illegal war. I think Gareth was wrong, not lying. For that reason, I would prefer not to note his errors with the SOFA but when he goes on Antiwar Radio and starts telling us 'what really took place in 2008,' excuse the hell out of me, Gareth Porter, but you didn't know what you were talking about back then and you still haven't learned.
To say that Barack's election put pressure on Bush is ridiculous. (It's also ridiculous to credit Bush with the SOFA. Other than thinking some agreement -- any agreement -- would be a credit for him in the future, Bush had no real interest in this. In terms of leadership, Condi Rice and Robert Gates were the ones coming up with specifics for the SOFA. Crocker also had strong input. A State Dept-er who just visited Iraq was one of the on-the-ground leaders back then.) The pressure was on Nouri -- which is why Nouri joined US diplomatic staff in heavy lobbying of Iraqi MPs -- because the SOFA was it by then. It was take it or leave it. And if Nouri left it, there was no time for something that could replace it. Not after Nouri had made a big show about how this time the agreement would go before Parliament.
Not only is he wrong about his SOFA history today, he's also reaching to portray the 'great' Moqtada as the force that will save Iraq. It's why he praises Nouri. Here's reality that a historian should grasp: Most events -- especially the great events -- are not due to one person (not even a 'man'), they are the result of the efforts and contributions of many people. Quit looking for a poster boy to stand-in as your personal savior.
Gareth wants you to know that Moqtada's made it very clear that he objects to US troops staying past the end of this year so, Gareth insists, there will be no extension of the agreement. Moqtada has been making statements, yes.
Let's note one. "And I reject, condemn and renounce the presence of occupying forces and bases on our beloved land." Hamza Hendawi (AP) quoted Moqtada stating that and noted Moqtada "urged Iraq's parliament to reject a pact that would extend U.S. presence in Iraq" and that "his followers marched through Baghdad's streets Saturday to reinforce that demand." So clearly Gareth is right on this and I'm completely wrong and -- Ooops. The AP story, use the link. It's from October 18, 2008. Yeah, just as he's protesting any extension right now and just as he did his mediocre Saturday protests (that the Baghdad-based western media lapped up), he did the same thing three years ago. And it didn't make a damn bit of difference then. Maybe it's different now. Maybe it's Maybelline. But we do have his past statements and his past stances and we can see that -- repeatedly -- he caved over and over. It could be different now. But if you're going to make predictions, you should at least be saying, "Now, unlike in 2008 . . ." Otherwise, it appears you don't know the public record.
To claim that Nouri "needs" Moqtada is especially unrealistic. And Scott Horton was right to ask "and why is that very clear" when Gareth was insisting that "it's very clear that Moqtada al-Sadr's movement will try to unseat" Nouri. There's been nothing said by Moqtada indicating that and, again, we go to the record. Doesn't mean your predictions will be true but it does let you make an informed guess. Moqtada will pull support from Nouri? Based on what? March 7, 2010, Iraq held elections. Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc came out with the most votes but Nouri was determined to hold on to the prime minister post. In April, al-Sadr held his own elections to see who his bloc should vote. From the April 7th snapshot:
Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10% of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left).
And Moqtada said it was binding and would determine whom his bloc would support. But that didn't happen, did it? No. Moqtada's word went up against Tehran and Tehran won. Not only did his supporters not rank Nouri highly, Moqtada didn't. Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) from October 1st, "On Thursday, Sept. 30, the day before Iraq set a world record for a parliamentary system's delay between election day and the creation of a new government, al-Sadr finally reversed himself and accepted a new term for al-Maliki, whom his spokesmen have routinely denounced as an American puppet and worse." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times), also October 1st, noted, "Until days ago he [Moqtada] fiercely opposed Mr. Maliki's re-election." Moqtada was opposed to Nouri. Until the government in Iran gave him clear orders. Moqtada as independent actor and someone with a backbone is not supported by the public record.

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