Sunday, March 18, 2018

Iraq's upcoming election with some context beyond a charge by Mattis

May 12th, Iraq is set to hold parliamentary elections.  Will the Iraqi people have their voices heard?  Not if post-2003 US-led invasion history is any indication.

The current prime minister Hayder al-Abadi wants to have a second term.  He staked his future on the premature claim that he vanquished ISIS in Iraq.  Barack Obama ousted Nouri al-Maliki in the fall of 2014 to make Hayder prime minister.  Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri wants to be prime minister again.  Others who would like to become prime minister include Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr who has teamed up with five other groups -- including the Iraqi Communist Party -- for this election cycle.  Two others who'd like to become prime minister, Ammar al-Hakim and Ayad Allawi, have done joint photo-ops.  Ayad Allawi should have been prime minister per the 2010 elections.  But Nouri refused to step down for eight months and brought the country to a stalemate.  Barack Obama, then president, refused to back the winner of the election and instead brokered The Erbil Agreement which, in November of 2010, gave Nouri a second term as prime minister -- in effect, nullifying the election results and overturning the will of the Iraqi people.

A lot of people missed that reality.  Some like Patrick Cockburn missed it intentionally and instead elected to flat out lie about what happened.

March 7, 2010, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August 2010, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 

Despite Patrick Cockburn's lie that Iran settled the election in October, there was no movement in October.  Iraq's government finally moves forward in November.  It had nothing to do with Iran.

November 10, 2010, The Erbil Agreement is signed.  November 11, 2010, the Iraqi Parliament has their first real session in over eight months and finally declares a president, a Speaker of Parliament and Nouri as prime minister-designate -- all the things that were supposed to happen in April of 2010 but didn't.

The event that allowed the Parliament to finally do what they were supposed to do immediately after the elections was not some approval in October from Iran.  It was the legal contract, The Erbil Agreement -- as we've said all along.  And the proof is that the Parliament finally holds the first real session 24 hours after The Erbil Agreement is signed.

For more on what happened, let's drop back to August 2015 for  Kevin Sylvester's THIS SUNDAY EDITION (CBC) which featured Emma Sky discussing Iraq and her new book  THE UNRAVELING: HIGH HOPES AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES IN IRAQ.  Excerpt of the discussion about the 2010 national election:

Emma Sky: And that national election was a very closely contested election. Iraqis of all persuasions and stripes went out to participate in that election.  They'd become convinced that politics was the way forward, that they could achieve what they wanted through politics and not violence.  To people who had previously been insurgents, people who'd not voted before turned out in large numbers to vote in that election.  And during that election, the incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, lost by 2 seats.  And the bloc that won was a bloc called Iraqiya led by Ayad Allawi which campaigned on "NO" to sectarianism, really trying to move beyond this horrible sectarian fighting -- an Iraq for Iraqis and no sectarianism.  And that message had attracted most of the Sunnis, a lot of the secular Shia and minority groups as well.

Kevin Sylvester:  People who felt they'd been shut out during Maliki's regime basically -- or his governance.

Emma Sky:  Yes, people that felt, you know, that they wanted to be part of the country called Iraq not -- they wanted to be this, they wanted Iraq to be the focus and not sect or ethnicity to be the focus.  And Maliki refused to accept the results.  He just said, "It is not right."  He wanted a recount.  He tried to use de-Ba'athification to eliminate or disqualify some Iraqiya members and take away the votes that they had gained.  And he just sat in his seat and sat in his seat.  And it became a real sort of internal disagreement within the US system about what to do?  So my boss, Gen [Ray] Odierno, was adamant that the US should uphold the Constitutional process, protect the political process, allow the winning group to have first go at trying to form the government for thirty days.  And he didn't think Allawi would be able to do it with himself as prime minister but he thought if you start the process they could reach agreement between Allawi and Maliki or a third candidate might appear who could become the new prime minister. So that was his recommendation.

Kevin Sylvester:   Well he even calls [US Vice President Joe] Biden -- Biden seems to suggest that that's what the administration will support and then they do a complete switch around.  What happened?

Emma Sky:  Well the ambassador at the time was a guy who hadn't got experience of the region, he was new in Iraq and didn't really want to be there.  He didn't have the same feel for the country as the general who'd been there for year after year after year.

Kevin Sylvester:  Chris Hill.

Emma Sky:  And he had, for him, you know 'Iraq needs a Shia strongman. Maliki's our man.  Maliki's our friend.  Maliki will give us a follow on security agreement to keep troops in country.'  So it looks as if Biden's listening to these two recommendations and that at the end Biden went along with the Ambassador's recommendation.  And the problem -- well a number of problems -- but nobody wanted Maliki.  People were very fearful that he was becoming a dictator, that he was sectarian, that he was divisive. And the elites had tried to remove him through votes of no confidence in previous years and the US had stepped in each time and said, "Look, this is not the time, do it through a national election."  So they had a national election, Maliki lost and they were really convinced they'd be able to get rid of him.  So when Biden made clear that the US position was to keep Maliki as prime minister, this caused a huge upset with Iraqiya.  They began to fear that America was plotting with Iran in secret agreement.  So they moved further and further and further away from being able to reach a compromise with Maliki.  And no matter how much pressure the Americans put on Iraqiya, they weren't going to agree to Maliki as prime minister and provided this opening to Iran because Iran's influence was way low at this stage because America -- America was credited with ending the civil war through the 'surge.'  But Iran sensed an opportunity and the Iranians pressured Moqtada al-Sadr -- and they pressured him and pressured him.  And he hated Maliki but they put so much pressure on to agree to a second Maliki term and the price for that was all American troops out of the country by the end of 2011.  So during this period, Americans got outplayed by Iran and Maliki moved very much over to the Iranian camp because they'd guaranteed his second term.

Kevin Sylvester:  Should-should the Obama administration been paying more attention?  Should they have -- You know, you talk about Chris Hill, the ambassador you mentioned, seemed more -- at one point, you describe him being more interested in putting green lawn turf down on the Embassy in order to play la crosse or something.  This is a guy you definitely paint as not having his head in Iraq.  How much of what has happened since then is at the fault of the Obama administration?  Hillary Clinton who put Chris Hill in place?   How much of what happens -- has happened since -- is at their feet?

Emma Sky:  Well, you know, I think they have to take some responsibility for this because of this mistake made in 2010.  And Hillary Clinton wasn't very much involved in Iraq.  She did appoint the ambassador but she wasn't involved in Iraq because President Obama had designated Biden to be his point-man on Iraq and Biden really didn't have the instinct for Iraq. He very much believed in ancient hatreds, it's in your blood, you just grow up hating each other and you think if there was anybody who would have actually understood Iraq it would have been Obama himself.  You know, he understands identity more than many people.  He understands multiple identities and how identities can change.  He understands the potential of people to change. So he's got quite a different world view from somebody like Joe Biden who's always, you know, "My grandfather was Irish and hated the British.  That's how things are."  So it is unfortunate that when the American public had enough of this war, they wanted to end the war.  For me, it wasn't so much about the troops leaving, it was the politics -- the poisonous politics.  And keeping Maliki in power when his poisonous politics were already evident was, for me, the huge mistake the Obama administration made. Because what Maliki did in his second term was to go after his rivals.  He was determined he was never going to lose an election again.  So he accused leading Sunni politicians of terrorism and pushed them out of the political process.  He reneged on his promises that he'd made to the tribal leaders who had fought against al Qaeda in Iraq during the surge. [She's referring to Sahwa, also known as Sons of Iraq and Daughters of Iraq and as Awakenings.]  He didn't pay them.  He subverted the judiciary.  And just ended up causing these mass Sunni protests that created the environment that the Islamic State could rear its ugly head and say, "Hey!"  And sadly -- and tragically, many Sunnis thought, "Maybe the Islamic State is better than Maliki."  And you've got to be pretty bad for people to think the Islamic State's better. 

Last week, Phil Stewart (REUTERS) reports:

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Iran on Thursday of “mucking around” in Iraq’s May parliamentary election, in which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking another term after a successful, U.S.-backed war against Islamic State militants.
The ballot will decide Iraq’s leader for the next four years, when Baghdad will be faced with rebuilding cities and towns seized from Islamic State, preventing the militants’ return and addressing the sectarian and economic divisions that fueled the conflict.
Among Abadi’s challengers are former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri, a former transportation minister – both of whom are among Iran’s closest allies in neighboring Iraq.


Iran might influence the elections?

Well US officials can claim whatever.  But shouldn't reporters do their job.  For example, when I hear "Hadi al-Amiri" I don't first think "terrorist" -- though many consider him one.  Apparently not enough people for Phil Stewart to note that opinion.  I don't even think of his repeated threats to kill US troops -- though he's made those threats publicly for some time now. 

No, what I think is corruption.  And, big surprise, Phil Stewart refuses to note that as well.

Dropping back to March 6, 2014:

On top of all that, he [Nouri al-Malaki] can't explain why a flight didn't land in Baghdad.  What an idiot.  The basics, as explained by Kitabat, a plane took off in Lebanon headed for Baghdad.  Twenty minutes after take off, the decision was made by someone in Baghdad that the plane would not be allowed to land.  This was then conveyed to Beirut and the plane with the plane then turning around and heading back to Beirut.  Why?  Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria), citing Nouri's spokesperson, reveals Nouri is claiming no one knows who gave the order.

Nouri's government has created an international incident -- demonstrating yet again what a joke his leadership is.  Dana Khraiche (Daily Star) reports:

MEA’s Public Relations Officer Rima Makkawi said the carrier was investigating why the plane was forced to return to Beirut, saying the earlier statement quoted rumors “and not the company’s reasoning.”
“We want to investigate what happened,” Makkawi told The Daily Star.

Right now, the best guess on what happened?  The plane waited six minutes after scheduled departure for Mahdi al-Amiri and a friend to be found and board.  They didn't.  The plane took off.  al-Amari's father threw a hissy fit -- yet another reason Nouri shouldn't appoint his friends and lackeys to positions of powe.  See Mahdi al-Amiri's father is Hadi al-Amiri is the Transportation Minister.  His son didn't make the flight.  The easiest explanation is that his father refused to allow it to land so it would turn around, go back to Beruit, where it would pick up little prince Mahdi.

Leave out the motive and who gave the order and this is what Oliver Holmes and Jamal Said (Reuters) report happened, "A passenger plane flying from Lebanon to Iraq on Thursday turned back after the Iraqi transport minister's son missed the flight and phoned Baghdad to stop the aircraft from landing, Middle East Airlines (MEA) said."  It also fits with the original statement issued by Middle East Airlines -- one they only retracted when Nouri began blustering and declaring he was going to launch an investigation immediately.  And it's certainly more believable than the statement made by Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Kareem al-Nuri who denied that was even supposed to be on the plane and that the reason for the refusal was that they "were cleaning operations in the airport and specific measures were taken.  We asked all flights not to land in Baghdad airport after 9 am (0600 GMT) but this flight arrived after this time, so we asked it to turn back."

This is part of the reason the protests in Iraq have been protesting continuously since December 21, 2012 -- the corruption.  While Iraqis are in need of jobs, in need of dependable public services, in need of security, the 'blessed' living in the Green Zone live it up on the public money and are corrupt and do whatever they want.  In this case, it appears Nouri's friend -- and, yes, Hadi al-Mari and Nouri go way back -- was able to use his job to send a plane back to Lebanon in order to pick up his son and then fly back.  Iraq Times calls it just that, an example of the ongoing corruption in Nouri's government.   Corruption is all over Iraq -- one issue is detailed here.

Shouldn't Phil Stewart have covered that in his 'report'?  It was huge and, although largely ignored in the United States, it was big around the world.  (CNN did report on it.)

Stewart also misses KITBAT's report, two days prior to Mattis' comments, about vote buying in Iraq.  And he misses, for that matter, 2010 and other moments when the US has determined Iraq's elections.

Let's note two of the seven killed in the helicopter crash last week in Iraq.

Among the seven Americans killed in Iraq on Thursday was Christopher Zanetis. A member of the National LGBT Bar Association (), Zanetis' notable career as a lawyer, fire marshal and member of the was defined by public service.

Our friend Bill Posch who celebrated July 4th at our house and pool was KILLED in Iraq along with several other soldiers this week. He will be remember forever. He leaves behind children and was a great patriot. RT in remembrance of this great American hero

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan and Jody Watley -- updated:

  • Saturday, March 17, 2018

    The seven killed in the helicopter crash

    Today, the Defense Dept released the names of those killed in the US helicopter crash in Iraq:

    The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of seven airmen who were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. They died March 15 when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in western Iraq. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
    Killed was:
    Captain Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. For more information, media may contact the 23rd Wing public affairs office at 229-257-4146.
    Also killed were:
    Captain Andreas B. O'Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, New York.
    Captain Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, New York.
    Master Sergeant Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack, New York.
    Staff Sergeant Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, New York.
    All four were assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing at the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, New York. For more information, media may contact the New York National Guard public affairs office at 518-786-4581.
    Also killed were:
    Master Sergeant William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida.
    Staff Sergeant Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida.
    Both were assigned to the 308th Rescue Squadron, Air Force Reserve, at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. For more information, media may contact the 920th Rescue Wing public affairs office at 321-615-0329.

    CBS NEWS notes Christopher J. Raguso:

    Raguso previously deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Texas and the Caribbean for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
    He joined the FDNY in 2005 and was also a volunteer firefighter in Commack, where he lived with his wife, Carmella, and two young daughters.
    "I was with the family last night and this morning. As you can imagine, they're devastated. They can't put it to words how they feel. It's numbing," Commack Fire Dept, Commissioner Pat Fazio said. "It's numbing to us here in the fire department as his fire department family on the volunteer level."
    Raguso died the day after his 39th birthday.
    "He told his family this was going to be his last mission. He went over there hoping to come home. Unfortunately, he's not coming home," Commack Fire Dept, Commissioner Steven Fontana said.

    FLORIDA TODAY notes William Posch and Carl Enis:

    Posch, an Indialantic resident, was an 18-year veteran of the Air Force. He served the last 10 years with the 920th Rescue Wing. Among his many missions, he assisted in rescue operations in Texas after Hurricane Harvey and took part in a long-range sea mission last July to rescue a pair of stranded German sailors.
    His decorations include the Air Medal with silver oak leaf cluster; an Aerial Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor.
    Enis was an eight-year veteran and joined the 920th Rescue Wing in 2010. Among his decorations are the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster; the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

    Some Tweets on the fallen:

    FDNY Fire Marshal Christopher T. “Tripp” Zanetis and FDNY Lieutenant Christopher J. Raguso, both of whom also served in the U.S. Armed Forces, were among seven military personnel tragically killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Iraq.

    Pentagon releases names of 7 airmen killed in crash in Iraq

    All service members identified from deadly Iraq helicopter crash

    It is with deep regret that FDNY announces the deaths of Lt. Christopher J. Raguso and Fire Marshal Christopher T. Zanetis. Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal Zanetis died in an American military helicopter crash in Iraq on Thursday, March 15. Read more:

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