" The Dinar Daily " ..... Sunday, 24 February 2013
Barzani Plans to Host Summit
As Iraqi Political Crisis Worsens
By: Bushra Al Mudhafar for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse. Posted on February 21.
Translated by: Naria Tanoukhi
It seems that a prospective national meeting of political parties in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, is imminent . But questions remain as to whether such a meeting can solve Iraq's increasingly complicated problems.
There are reports of US pressure and Iranian and Arab support for a second meeting among Iraqi factions under the auspices of Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani. Erbil hosted a similar meeting in 2010 with some success: it resulted in what is known as the "Erbil Agreement" that led to the formation of a national unity government, headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
According to Kurdish leaders in Iraq, Barzani is expected to send formal invitations within two weeks to leaders of Iraqi political parties for a comprehensive national conference in Erbil. The conference would discuss the repercussions of the anti-government protests taking place across Iraqi cities, which have increased sectarian tensions across the country.
The announcement of Barzani’s national-meeting initiative was preceded by the visit of a delegation from the National Iraqi Alliance — which includes the main Shiite parties — to the Kurdistan region, where they met with Kurdish leaders. Sources revealed that the Shiite delegation proposed an initiative that included comprehensive reforms.
The visit coincided with another meeting held by Barzani among Ayad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi List, which is supported by the Iraqi Sunnis; Ahmed Chalabi, president of the Iraqi National Congress; and a representative of the “Sadrist current” led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The parties discussed the crisis and its repercussions.
The prospective "national meeting" would theoretically require concessions by opposing parties to solve the crisis. But it appears that each party is trying to improve its position in advance of sitting down at the negotiating table.
The Kurds, represented by the Kurdish Alliance, stipulated that the prospective conference must incorporate guarantees that conference decisions would be implemented. The goal is to prevent a repeat of what happened in Erbil in 2010; from the Kurdish Alliance's perspective, the Iraqi prime minister failed to implement most of the elements of the decisions that were issued.
According to the Kurds, commitment to agreements made at the conference will be the benchmark for success. Opposition political parties have accused the prime minister of evading the implementation of agreements, particularly with regard to national partnership.
The Erbil Agreement agreed on establishing a "strategic policies council" and national balance at state institutions; developing rules of procedure for the Council of Ministers; enacting laws pertaining to oil and gas, the Supreme Federal Court and the General Amnesty Law; assigning the position of minister of defense to the Iraqi List; solving the problems of detainees; participating in the management of the state in a way that would preserve all components and factions of the Iraqi people; and other issues that would help to rectify the political process.
The Sunnis, represented by the Iraqi List, will attend the prospective meeting carrying perhaps the most influential card: the anti-government protests being held in the major Sunni cities — Anbar, Mosul, Salahuddin and Diyala — which have resisted attempts to disperse them or to respond partially to their demands, particularly those related to the detainees and de-Baathification measures.
The Sunni demonstrations draw their strength from the fact that they threaten to undermine social peace in the country, which is greatly feared by the Shiite-led government.
Sadr's support of protesters' demands in Sunni governorates has earned him some approval and legitimacy among Sunnis. This might allow Sadr’s bloc to attend the prospective meeting from a position of strength, which he has acquired from his approval by both parties, in addition to a privileged relationship with the Kurdistan region following his visit there last year to participate in meetings demanding the prime minister’s dismissal.
In the midst of these movements, Maliki remains stuck in a fierce battle with his opponents. He wants to ensure the continuity of the power and influence he has built since becoming prime minister.
In an attempt to strip Maliki of one of his main strengths, the Justice and Accountability Commission — which is responsible for excluding former Baathists from government positions, and was formed in May 2012 with seven members who make consensual de-Baathification decisions, but is actually dominated by five members affiliated with the anti-government blocs — made the bold decision to remove Chief Justice Midhat al-Mahmoud. The commission attributed its decision on Mahmoud to the belief that he is an “agent of the former regime."
Maliki's opponents denied that the decision was politically motivated. According to Mohammed Kayani, member of parliament for the Movement for Change, excluding Mahmoud from the Supreme Federal Court is a step in the right direction to make the court neutral and apolitical. Kayani added that “what is known about Mahmoud in recent years is that he has been the godfather of the return of dictatorship to Iraq through this court.”
Regarding Mahmoud’s role in supporting Maliki’s influence, Kayani said: “Mahmoud freezes the laws passed by parliament which do not appeal to the executive authority, and disables the role of parliament through the [judicial] institution, which has become a machine for reinstalling dictatorship rather than democracy in Iraq."
The prime minister responded by sacking the head of the Justice and Accountability Commission, Falah Shanshal, who belongs to the Sadrist movement. Maliki assigned Bassem Sharif al-Badri as chairman in his place.
The commission, which is elected by parliament, claimed the decision was unconstitutional, as the appointment and dismissal of its chairman is the exclusive prerogative of parliament. However, Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, said that the decision to dismiss Shanshal was taken because the latter was not elected by parliament, as required by law. He said that because Shanshal was appointed, not elected, the prime minister can dismiss him.
The announcement on Feb. 19 that the Discriminatory Authority of the Justice and Accountability Commission vetoed the decision to exclude Mahmoud from government may not end the battle between Maliki and his opponents — the Kurds, the Iraqi List and the Sadrists. But it certainly demonstrates some of Maliki's aspirations in advance the upcoming meeting in Erbil.
The announcement of a prospective conference in Erbil to resolve the crisis, just a month before the provincial elections and less than a year before the parliamentary elections, raises questions about how useful temporary compromises are in an atmosphere with almost no attention to reform or comprehensive state-building.
According to public opinion, Iraq needs comprehensive consensus over reforms on all disputed national issues, including the constitution if required. Meanwhile, there are mounting fears that temporary agreements will fail.
The success or failure of the prospective Erbil meeting depends on whether it can shift the political mood in Iraq from discussions of partial solutions toward solving the major differences that regularly arise. Those include the form of government, the powers of authorities, the boundaries of a federal system, the distribution of wealth, judicial, military, and security reforms, systematic solutions to corruption, and foreign-relations reform.Bushra Al Mudhafar is a writer and journalist from Baghdad working in both Iraqi and Arab media.
*** GOOD SYNOPSIS OF THE ERBIL AGREEMENT - RECOGNIZE ALL THE ISSUES IN THE NEWS LEADING UP TO THE CURRENT CONFRONTATION WITH MALIKI ? *** ..................................... " The Erbil Agreement agreed on establishing a "strategic policies council" and national balance at state institutions; developing rules of procedure for the Council of Ministers; enacting laws pertaining to oil and gas, the Supreme Federal Court and the General Amnesty Law; assigning the position of minister of defense to the Iraqi List; solving the problems of detainees; participating in the management of the state in a way that would preserve all components and factions of the Iraqi people; and other issues that would help to rectify the political process. "
Fist fight between Nujaif and Gharrawi’s bodyguards
Saturday, 23 February 2013 11:57
Shafaq News / An informed source in Mosul, the center of Nineveh province revealed on Saturday, that a dispute took place between the governor of Nineveh, Ethel al-Nujaifi and commander of the third division of the federal police al-Gharrawi that reached a fist fight between the bodyguards of the two sides because of cutting power from the sit-ins Square and demonstrations in the center of the city.
The source, who asked not to be identified told "Shafaq News", that "after the arrival of Nineveh governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi to Ahrar Square on Friday night to find out the reasons if cutting the electricity from the demonstrators, the third division commander of the federal police , Mahdi al-Gharrawi arrived to the arena then a fist fight began between the two side’s bodyguards.”
The source added that "this dispute came after Nujaifi warned the security leaders, including Gharrawi not to interact with the demonstrators."
The main square in the center of Mosul is witnessing ongoing demonstrations and sit-ins for nearly two months against the federal government to demand the release of detainees and women detention and to cancel a number of laws and resolutions, including the Justice and Accountability Law and Article 4 terrorism.
Not optimistic over releasing Iraq from Seventh Chapter of UN's Charter at this time, says MP
Sunday, 24 February 2013 09:20 | | |
Baghdad (AIN) –MP, Hala al-Naftachi, the member of the Parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, stated that she is not optimistic over releasing Iraq from the Seventh Chapter of the UN's Chapter at the current time.
Speaking to All Iraq News Agency (AIN), she said "We are not optimistic over releasing Iraq from the Seventh Chapter by the UN due to the security and political situations in Iraq that negatively affect the agreement of the other countries to release Iraq form this Chapter."
"The crises in Iraq are clearly affecting the international relations and will reduce the international and regional role of Iraq," she added.
"In spite of the current crises in Iraq that awakened it, Iraq is still playing a good role in the region by its participation in the international conferences," she concluded.
Jaafary discusses with Basra key figures, services in Basra provinces
Sunday, 24 February 2013 09:50 | | |
Baghdad (AIN) –The head of the Iraqi National Alliance, Ibrahim al-Jaafary, discussed with the key figures of Basra province, the service and investments in Basra province.
A statement by the INA received by AIN quoted Jaafary, as saying "Basra represents the economic capital of Iraq due to its natural resources and commercial centers in addition to the qualified people that it has in spite of the current hard situation in Iraq where a big ratio of the Budget of Iraq depends on the incomes of Basra province."
He stressed the necessity of "Effectively participating in the next elections to vote for the qualified persons and adhere to the national interest rather than the personal one."
He called "The chieftain to adhere to their role in settling the crises and diagnosing the defect to criticize it in order to fight the seditions that target Iraq."
Forming a committee to reconcile differences over the budget during the 24 hours
BAGHDAD / JD / .. Financial member and Objectives revealed Magda Tamimi for the formation of a committee to reconcile differences over the budget within 24 hours, indicating that there is a consensus not to return the budget to the government.
Said Tamimi told / JD /: last reached the blocks in today's session is form a committee, composed of the Minister of Natural Resources in the Kurdistan region and a member of the Audit Court, in addition to the heads of blocs to settle the issue of approving the budget during the next 24 hours.
Tamimi showed: that the House of Representatives today voted not to return the budget to the government despite demands from the Iraqi List and the Kurdistan Alliance to do so.
And was Alamaml to vote on the budget today after the agreement of the National Alliance and the Kurdistan to overcome the problem encountered in the vote.
The National Alliance announced after a meeting with representatives from the Kurdistan Alliance and the participation of the Minister of Oil Abdul-Karim defect, to reach a compromise paves the way for the House vote to pass the budget.
The head of the National Alliance Ibrahim al-Jaafari: It was agreed on the legal formula for payments to foreign oil companies contracting with the Kurdistan region of abundance derived from the annual revenue of the central government, and included in the budget law issued by the Council of Ministers, with the aim approval for Government's commitment to the region to export oil produced non-stop.
The presidency of the Iraqi parliament has revealed the main points of contention between the two blocs on the budget, hinting at the possibility of back to the government after the arrival of the negotiations between the blocks to a dead end.
A statement issued by the information department in the parliament received / JD / copy of it: that House Speaker Osama Nujaifi chaired a meeting of the heads and representatives of parliamentary blocs and the chairman and members of the Finance Committee in the presence of Qusay al-Suhail and Aref Tayfur Vice President of the Council, and during the meeting to discuss the draft budget law 2013 and the most important controversial paragraphs that impede approval.
According to the statement, pointed Najafi at the beginning of the meeting to the arrival of dialogues on the approval of the current year budget to the point intractable because of differences between the blocs on allocations for regional development and dues to companies operating in the Kurdistan Region, stressing that negotiations had reached an impasse and the House of Representatives may exercise his constitutional role to re-draft budget bill to the government to increase the expenditure ceiling or use his right to redeploy the money in terms of budget and paragraphs.
Nujaifi called the Finance Committee to resolve the issue of allocations allocated to the development of the regions with parliamentary blocs and host a delegation from the Kurdistan Region to discuss dues to companies operating in the region, stressing that if the lack of results will bring the budget back to the government.
By: Ali Abel Sadah for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse. Posted on February 20.
Following an attempt by Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi to restore the dismissed head of the Justice and Accountability Committee to his post, in a clear challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Maliki’s supporters are seeking to oust Nujaifi.
About This Article
The tensions between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi signal a deepening of sectarian and political divisions, writes Ali Abel Sadah.
Rifts in Iraqi Government Highlighted by Recent Dismissals
Author: Ali Abel Sadah
Translated by: Steffi Chakti
Categories :Originals Iraq
Nujaifi recently ordered that Falah Shanshal resume his position as the head of the Justice and Accountability Committee, a day after his dismissal by Maliki.
Al-Monitor was able to secure a copy of an official press statement titled “Directive” in which Nujaifi stated that the “election of Shanshal and his deputy Bakhtiar Omar by the members of the Justice and Accountability Committee was legal. The committee is exclusively associated with the parliament.”
Maliki and Nujaifi have been fighting over the power to supervise independent committees including the Judicial Council, the Justice and Accountability Committee, the Electoral Committee and the Human Rights Committee.
Both parties exchanged accusations of politicization and using the committees for personal purposes. Maliki’s opponents argue that he is exerting tremendous efforts to maintain control over the committees.
Nujaifi’s decision to reassign Shanshal, a leading member of the Sadrist movement, not only defies Maliki but also reflects the chaos endemic within Iraqi state institutions.
Maliki dismissed Shanshal following the decision to remove Chief Justice Midhat al-Mahmoud in accordance with the de-Baathification law. The State of Law coalition regards this decision as political targeting.
Bassem Badri, a member of the Maliki-led Islamic Dawa Party, has been assigned as the new head of the Justice and Accountability Committee.
Amid the ongoing conflict, the committee is functioning under the auspices of two heads, the first supported by Maliki and the second backed by Nujaifi.
As the crisis develops further, especially in the wake of Nujaifi’s decision, the State of Law coalition is seeking to oust the speaker, certainly not for the first time.
The leading positions in Iraq have been distributed according to political agreements: the president is to be Kurdish, the prime minister Shiite and the speaker of parliament Sunni.
Maliki’s attempt to oust Nujaifi is expected to ignite vehement opposition, since he would be violating the same agreement that brought him to power. Ongoing Sunni protests will make Maliki's attempt even harder. Nujaifi's ouster would add fuel to the fire, since he is the most prominent Sunni political figure.
Meanwhile, Maliki is trying to reinstate Mahmoud to his position in the Judicial Council. Local news agencies in Iraq broadcasted on Feb. 17 a newsflash stating that Mahmoud has returned to Iraq following his dismissal after a trip abroad.
A close political source to the ruling Shiite National Iraqi Alliance told Al-Monitor that Mahmoud has appealed to the Court of Cassation and is likely to win the lawsuit and regain his post.
Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians and observers believe that Maliki will win and restore the posts of his supporters. But his opponents are certainly preparing to strike again.
Ali Abel Sadah is a writer and journalist from Baghdad working in both Iraqi and Arab media. He was the editorial manager of a number of local newspapers, and was a political and cultural reporter for over 10 years.
Iraqi Judicial Reforms Include
Removal of Chief Justice
By: Ali Abel Sadah for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse. Posted on February 18.
The changes sweeping across the Iraqi judiciary have reached long-serving Chief Justice Midhat al-Mahmoud. Despite the fact that Iraqi politicians who form the opposition to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have stated that Mahmoud was deposed in accordance with the de-Baathification Law, the Judicial Council confirmed that new legislation passed by parliament mandates that the chief justice be replaced with a new judge.
Amendments and changes to laws on the books from the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein regime and the American occupation are shaking up the Iraqi judicial system, reports Ali Abel Sadah.
New Law Removes Judiciary Head in Iraq
Author: Ali Abel Sadah
Translated by: James Spencer
Categories :Originals Iraq
In the beginning of 2013, parliament passed the Iraqi Federal Court Act, which bans the head of the Federal Supreme Court from also being the chief justice of the Judicial Council. According to the new law, the head of the Court of Cassation is now chief justice.
The Iraqi judiciary is comprised of the Court of Cassation, which ratifies the rulings of Iraqi judges and has final say in such matters, and the Federal Supreme Court, which rules on issues related to federalism and constitutionality.
Under the new law passed by parliament, the head of the Court of Cassation is now the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Council, and the head of the Federal Supreme Court cannot hold any other position.
Thus the council decided to remove Mahmoud from his position and restore him to his former post as head of the Federal Supreme Court.
Al-Monitor was able to secure a copy of the press statement in which Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul Sattar Bayraktar stated, “The appointment of Judge Hassan Ibrahim Humairi as head of the Supreme Judicial Council was done in accordance with the new council law, which stipulates that the head of the Court of Cassation is also the chief justice of the Judicial Council [...] Mahmoud will now be the head of the Federal Supreme Court, which is his former position.”
The Judicial Council did not reveal the mechanism used for selecting Humairi as chief justice, nor did it reveal the names of the other judges being considered for the position that Mahmoud had previously held for years.
Iraqi politicians claimed that Mahmoud’s replacement came about due to the de-Baathification Law. Paul Bremer, then the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq, issued this law in 2004, banning members of the Iraqi Baath Party from holding government positions.
Iraqi politician Sabah al-Saadi, a Shiite lawmaker who split from the ruling National Alliance and has been a steadfast opponent of Maliki’s government for years, said in an interview with Al-Monitor that “Iraqi citizens filed complaints against Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Council Mahmoud for his involvement in crimes against humanity [...] Mahmoud is responsible for a crime that occurred during the reign of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in which more than 10,000 Iraqi citizens were mutilated, for he upheld Hussein’s orders that draft dodgers and deserters have their ears cut off.”
In Iraq, there is compulsory military service for all men over the age of 18, and during the mid-1990s Hussein had ordered that deserters be punished.
Mahmoud was a judge when Resolution 115, which legalized this punishment, was passed on June 25, 1994.
Bayraktar told Al-Monitor that MP Saadi’s claims are inaccurate. He emphasized that Mahmoud was removed from his position because of the new law, which regulates the administrative structure of the Iraqi Judicial Council, and added that the MP’s accusations played no part in this change.
In another development, the National Commission for Accountability and Justice, which oversees the implementation of de-Baathification in Iraq, said, “The organization is working on verifying the information and communications regarding the inclusion of some judges in the procedures the commission, which includes Mahmoud and a number of other judges.”
Mahmoud does not enjoy good relations with civil-society organizations, especially opponents of Prime Minister Maliki, who accuse him of being Maliki’s puppet in court.
It is worth noting that when Mahmoud was head of the Judicial Supreme Council in 2010, he resolved the dispute over the general election’s vote tally between Maliki and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a Shiite leader and head of the al-Iraqiya List. Mahmoud decided that Maliki represented the largest parliamentary bloc and should form the government, despite Allawi’s coalition having won 91 seats, just two fewer than Maliki’s State of Law Coalition.
Mahmoud was born in Baghdad on Sep. 21, 1933. He attended primary and secondary school in Baghdad, and graduated from the Faculty of Law with top marks in 1959. He practiced law after graduating from the Faculty of Law, and was later appointed as a judicial investigator in the Ministry of Justice in 1960. He was made a judge in 1968 after passing a judicial-competency exam with top marks.
He then worked as a legal advisor to the late President Saddam Hussein for three years, then as an advisor to the cabinet of the former regime for several years, and after that as a lecturer at the Saddam University Faculty of Law. While working in the president’s office, Hussein appointed him as a judge in the Court of Cassation, which violated the laws in force at the time. After reaching the age at which judges must legally retire, he obtained an extension and continued to serve, also in violation of the law.
During the 2002 referendum, Mahmoud popularized the phrase “eternal allegiance” regarding Hussein. In an article he wrote for the local newspaper Qadisiyah on Oct. 15, 2002, he coined the famous saying, “The greatest commander for the greatest people.”
After the US invasion of Iraq, Bremer appointed Mahmoud as supervisor of the Ministry of Justice on June 12, 2003.
Ali Abel Sadah is a writer and journalist from Baghdad working in both Iraqi and Arab media. He was the editorial manager of a number of local newspapers, and was a political and cultural reporter for over 10 years.
Maliki Wields 'De-Baathification'
In Iraqi Power Struggle
By: Ali Abel Sadah for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse. Posted on February 21.
The former members of the dissolved Iraqi Baath party have become a point of contention in the conflicts between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his rivals.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is facing accusations that he has been abusing the role of the Justice and Accountability Committee, using it only against opponents, writes Ali Abel Sadah.
Maliki and Rivals Transform ‘Justice and Accountability’ Into a Scapegoat
Author: Ali Abel Sadah
Translated by: Steffi Chakti
Categories :Originals Iraq
According to the de-Baathification Law, which was issued by the former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq, Paul Bremer, members of the Baath Party are banned from holding key positions. In 2008, the law was amended under the Justice and Accountability Act to include anyone involved in crimes against humanity, but within a more flexible framework.
The law, however, has become a disputed political issue in Iraq, with each of the parties involved interpreting it differently. Clearly, Maliki is going through a contentious political crisis that may remove him from the seat of power. Unavoidably, he has had to play the legal card in order to protect his power.
Previously Maliki succeeded in deterring Baathists from participating in the parliamentary elections of 2010, as was the case with Saleh al-Mutlaq, a prominent Sunni figure who later became deputy prime minister.
Maliki’s rivals believe, however, that he is working according to double standards, since he ensures that the de-Baathification Law exempts those who pledge allegiance to him.
Since mid-February 2013, some Iraqi political parties have begun to challenge Maliki’s power by targeting key ex-Baathist officials believed to be supporters of Maliki.
On Feb. 16, 2013, the Justice and Accountability Committee decided to depose Chief Justice Midhat al-Mahmoud — a prominent figure during the regime of Saddam Hussein — in accordance with the de-Baathification Law.
This decision was seen as political targeting of Maliki and an attempt to remove a judicial pillar he controls and heavily relies on, according to his rivals.
The Maliki-led Shiite State of Law Coalition was enraged by the decision, which some considered political assassination. Sensing that his abilities were being constrained, Maliki rushed to oust the head of the Justice and Accountability Committee, a leading member of the Sadrist Movement.
According to Sabah al-Saadi, a member of the Iraqi Commission of Integrity, Maliki sent an official letter to the Justice and Accountability Committee stipulating the dismissal of Falah Shanshal after the latter voted to depose Mahmoud. Saadi reiterated that Maliki is not entitled to make such a decision.
Following Shanshal’s removal from office, Mahmoud returned to Baghdad after having traveled abroad in the aftermath of his ousting. Mahmoud appealed to the Court of Cassation, contesting its decision to dismiss him.
“Maliki is not entitled to depose Shanshal because he was elected by the Justice and Accountability Committee as a caretaker,” announced Shiite MP Saadi, who split from the ruling National Alliance, in a press conference.
A significant number of positions in government institutions are interim, awaiting ratification. Political disputes, however, have impaired the process.
Clearly, Maliki has used the fact that Shanshal occupied an interim position to dismiss him, after Shanshal deposed of Mahmoud — Maliki’s key supporter within the judicial system.
Al-Monitor secured a copy of a statement in which Maliki’s press secretary, Ali Mussawi, stated that “Maliki had appointed Shanshal the interim head of the Justice and Accountability Committee, after the parliament failed to elect a head and a deputy head.”
“Withdrawing the appointment came as a result of Shanshal’s behavior, who acted as if he was duly elected by the parliament,” he added.
The law issued by the Justice and Accountability Committee, which the parliament passed in 2008, calls for “intellectually, administratively, politically, culturally and economically dismantling the Baath Party system in Iraqi society, state institutions and civil-society institutions.”
According to the law, “Any member of the dissolved Baath party and repressive agencies who is incriminated through investigations of committing criminal acts against the Iraqi people shall be referred to the competent courts to be fairly dealt with.”
However, the law was not properly implemented, nor was it used to settle the differences between the Iraqi powers. Rather, since 2003, it has been used as a tool to settle political disputes.
Therefore, the official committee charged with implementing this law has become a scapegoat, while its tasks have been changed from their original purposes.
Ali Abel Sadah is a writer and journalist from Baghdad working in both Iraqi and Arab media. He was the editorial manager of a number of local newspapers, and was a political and cultural reporter for over 10 years. He has published in various newspapers and magazines covering Iraqi political affairs, human rights and civil society.
By: Ali Abdel Amir Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab).
Every Friday, the Iraqi streets witness the peak of the waves of protests that will eventually evolve into “a million man march,” according to their organizers. The leaders of popular movements in Iraq have started to pose a serious challenge to the traditional political and tribal leaders, especially in those regions where protests are happening.
Protests in Iraq are increasingly adopting a more peaceful and civil approach, as young students and non-sectarian leaders attempt to become more actively engaged in the reform movement, writes Ali Abdel Amir.
Publisher: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)
Young academics and clerics innovate new means of protest
Author: Ali Abdel Amir
First Published: February 1, 2013
Posted on: February 1 2013
Translated by: Joelle El-Khoury and Pascale Menassa
Categories : Iraq
These emergence of these leaders resulted from the popular anger that gained momentum over the past month, following the arrest of the bodyguards of Iraqi Minister of Finance Rafeh Issawi — a popular political and tribal Sunni leader from Fallujah in Anbar province.
However, these figures are leading protests that differ from Iraq's usual demonstrations, often characterized by violence and clashes. This has made them remarkable. Whether planned or not, these have been Iraq's first prolonged, peaceful protests. The organizers fundamentally adjusted the form of the protests, which disproved the assumption from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s camp that protests would never be nonviolent. After former regime flags were sighted, the leaders banned raising any Iraqi flags other than the official one. They banned banners or signs that depict the Free Syrian Army or photos of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (because both were behind accusations that the protests backed a foreign conspiracy that hoped for a repeat of the Syrian crisis in Iraq). But the most prominent indication of change was that politicians — governmental and parliamentary officials — were dismissed from the protests. This implicitly condemned their role in a political operation that produced a continuous crisis and kept the country under their control.
The leaders were young — most of them no older than 30. This encouraged the use of non-traditional methods, not only in terms of discourse, but in terms of implementation. They included a live broadcast of events, opinions and statements from the media, especially via webcams and Skype, to satellites, media and correspondents all over the world. The peaceful aspect of the protests was emphasized, and they rejected escalation and clashes with the security forces. The protesters clung to this line of conduct despite the “security clamp-down on the rallies,” as one leader put it.
Al-Hayat spoke to several leaders of the popular movement, who tacitly admitted the “constitutional aspect” of their demands and their right to express objections peacefully were a tribute to the emerging Iraqi democracy. Jalal Kaoud, a young architect, academic and businessman who returned about a year and a half ago to Anbar after completing his higher education in the US, said, “Today, there is increasing awareness that ending the people’s sufferings, in Anbar and other regions that feel discriminated against by the central government, must be done through civil means, including the application of the Iraqi constitution’s content. The organized peaceful protests with specific demands and goals seem new to the prevailing Iraqi political mentality. Thanks to them, people have broken free from the chains of fear and hesitation and from traditional forms of protest marred by violence and narrow sectarian discourse at the level of regions and confessions.”
Kaoud, who formed a political rally under the name “Rawafed al-Iraq,” affirms, “We have faith in peaceful sit-ins, today more than ever, because they are the true means of change. Their legitimacy and constitutionality cannot be contested. As long as they continue in a peaceful and organized manner, they will instill real change ordained by the law and constitution, and by in-depth experience in political work.”
Kaoud added: “Following 2003, warlords and terrorist leaders emerged all across Anbar and various parts of Iraq. By virtue of their influence, they have left their impression on political action. Then the following situation was triggered, repelling a number of these lords from the forefront. For this reason, it is not unusual to see them at present secretly negotiating at times and publicly at other times, with the party against which protesters are revolting: the central government in Baghdad, which contributed to strengthening their presence, despite claims of rivalry.”
Responding to the question of whether clerics and tribal leaders lead these protests, activist and journalist Majed Abdel Hamid — who revealed to al-Hayat his real name, but was previously known as Abu Omar al-Mohammedi in the media — said: “This is true, in Anbar and the protest areas. Religious influence seems to have taken the lead, with tribal influence exerting an even bigger impact. However, participants in the popular movement are the youth who probably respect tribal and religious leaders, but are not affiliated with them. We organize ourselves, learning every day from our mistakes and taking the protest to national levels that go beyond regionalism and sectarianism.”
Similarly, Kaoud said: “Fears that clerics have taken over protests are probably common. This fear is justified, particularly when it comes to Iraqi parties that stand in solidarity with the protest and fear sectarianism. These parties are right to fear, because those who are standing at the forefront of protests are the Sunni clerics. However, we have to include another side in the equation: tribes. They are a significant force in our area, they have a character that goes beyond sectarianism. There are Sunni tribes just as there are Shiite tribes. Relying on the tribal aspect will be important in removing any sectarian aspects from the protests. Despite that, there is also a fear of tribal leaders, particularly that some of them could be easily bribed. However, we will rely on those with a clean background. In this regard, we stress that we have important tribal figures who do not seek money or power and have proven this by unconditionally standing with the protests.”
The emergence of new youth leaders seems to negate attempts by traditional political forces — in the government and parliament — “to ride the wave of the protests.” Activist Majed Abdel Hamid said, “We refuse to favor Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi or any other political party. We have emphasized our independence, which has prompted a senior cleric such as religious scholar Sheikh Abdul Malik al-Saadi to refuse to receive any political envoys. They see us as the sole authority in this cause.”
Abdel Hamid strongly denied claims that the protests are sectarian. He pointed to al-Maliki’s camp and noted the position of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the supreme religious authority in Najaf, and the demands for protesters' rights.
However, current activists in Iraq's popular movements admit that civil leaders are absent, which works to the advantage of the front led by religious and tribal leaders. They see that as “a temporary situation… All participants to the protest are youth, and the absence of young leading models in the previous period does not mean that they do not exist with a peaceful protest. This peaceful protest has given with every day, new and peaceful means that have not been seen in the region, which has witnessed fierce and bloody confrontation, at times with Americans and at times with al-Qaeda."
Iraqi Politicians Face Tough Choices
In Responding to Protests
By: Mushreq Abbas Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab).
Since the Anbar protests broke out late last year, figures close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have been at a loss. Conflicting advice has been offered to solve the crisis — all of which rests on a common ground: the crisis is “political," incited by “regional motives” and could be solved by the type of “deal” we have grown accustomed to.
As sectarian crises escalate in Iraq, Mushreq Abbas analyzes the difficult path ahead for both Shiite and Sunni politicians in responding to protesters' demands.
Publisher: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)
Iraq: Solving Today’s Crises With Yesterday’s Deals
Author: Mushreq Abbas
First Published: February 5, 2013
Posted on: February 7 2013
Translated by: Steffi Chakti
Categories : Iraq
While Maliki himself has acknowledged that the protestors have “some legitimate demands,” he has also warned that “terrorists” and Baathists have infiltrated the protests. He set up committees to “sort through the demands,” released a few detainees and amended some aspects of the de-Baathification process. Meanwhile, he continued to speak of a “plot” against “the Iraqi experiment” and to warn of “sedition looming on the horizon, after it was thought to have been completely eradicated.”
These protesters, who broke the "fear" barrier in Anbar province last December and have taken to the streets of the main Sunni towns, have left political figures perplexed. The confusion extends to Sunni leaders, too, who quickly found themselves unable to control the situation. Although the Anbar protesters were initially encouraged to protest by Iraqi Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, demonstrators soon excluded all political leaders, leaving the power in the hands of religious and tribal leaders.
This new religious and tribal leadership did not emerge at random. Sunni politicians have lost popularity, as protesters believe that their political representatives are to blame for the situation Iraq is in today. During the first month of protests, those close to the government strongly believed that a political deal could solve the problem or at least placate the people’s anger, leading to a new series of discussions between political leaders. This confidence resulted from extensive experience in managing internal conflicts, which, for seven years, have been dealt with on the surface — only to result in further “crises” and “challenges.”
The delay in acknowledging the severity of the crisis stemmed from Maliki’s conviction, throughout the first weeks of demonstrations, that solutions would happen by exerting pressure on traditional Sunni figures, setting up committees and exchanging accusations. In the early days of the crisis, some politicians threatened to dissolve the parliament, and various accusations were leveled against the protesters. Traditional political circles viewed these demonstrators as an isolated “bubble.”
It later became clear that a political decision issued by Sunni officials would not put an end to protests, and that influential religious and tribal leaders, such as Abdul Malek al-Saadi, could hardly be lured into compromises.
The government’s response in the face of protests has revealed a structural dysfunction. The government admitted to holding innocent people in prison and says that — through decisions issued by the committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussein al-Shahristani — it can solve the complaints of hundreds of ex-Baathists about corrupt and unjust mechanisms used to implement the Justice and Accountability Law.
Protesters weren’t the only ones questioning the government’s practices. Prominent Shiite political and religious figures had their own concerns: “If the protesters’ demands are legitimate and could be answered through government decisions and special committees, why has the government waited so long to address this injustice?” These concerns are especially valid given that the injustice has not been a secret; Sunni politicians have always talked about it, and it has been the core of their crises for years.
Amid accusations leveled against the protesters since day one — notably that they are linked to foreign powers and sectarianism, and have waved the flags of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Free Syrian Army — they have acted unpredictably, further confusing politicians, including Sunni ones. This can be summed up through the following: “Protesters refuse to be represented by politicians, while at the same time they refuse to choose representatives to negotiate on their behalf.” This has proven baffling given the attack against Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and the protesters' refusal to negotiate with government delegations. It has become clear that the protesters, along with the religious and tribal leaders, have agreed not to negotiate with the government and to move forward with protests until their demands are met — and perhaps even after that, too. This allows the protesters not only to continue protesting, but also to escalate their demands to the point of calling for the toppling of the government.
Maliki’s supporters believe that the true aim of these protests is not to achieve their stated demands, but rather to ignite sectarian conflict. His supporters responded to calls for annulling the terrorism and de-Baathification laws by taking to the streets in support of these laws.
The Sunni protests in Fallujah and Mosul have paved the road for Shiites to address the mistakes of Maliki’s government. Those mistakes don't related to the crises that have been going on for seven years with Sunnis and Kurds; instead, they relate to the response of Iraqi Shiite Cleric Ali al-Sistani to the following question: “How do you, as a Shiite authority, assess governance in Iraq?” Out of the five points mentioned in Sistani’s recommendations for overcoming the Iraqi crisis, the most significant sentence read, “by laying the foundations for a civil state based on constitutional institutions in which rights and duties are respected.”
For the first time, this Shiite cleric publicly expressed his wishes for a “civil” state, not one that is “religious, Shiite or Sunni.” This is a state based on partnership and not predominance; “all parties in Iraq must bear the responsibilities and all parties must be held equally accountable.”
Sistani ended his recommendations by saying: “Many issues are politicized — something that is, and will, lead to more crises. These issues must be addressed independently through laws and the constitution, without political interference. Hence, all political leaders are asked to take a neutral stance without taking advantage of these issues in order to make political gains.”
“Why is Sistani opposed to early elections?” The government has tried hard to avoid this question, since its implications go beyond the crisis. Sistani doesn’t want the premiership to be limited to Islamic parties, notably the Islamic Dawa Party, to transform into a “political custom.” Sistani’s desire is not accidental. Shiite figures and parties have been limited, with the Islamic Dawa Party the sole generator of prime ministers. This fact is gradually becoming the status quo.
During 2013, Maliki’s camp hopes to preserve the reins of power, while controlling the political, social and security crises. This would help re-engineer the political map and ensure a third mandate.
Maliki’s opponents have sent a fierce message by endorsing the law on “limiting presidential terms” that is meant to oblige Maliki to give up on a third mandate. But the opposition knew that the law had no chance of passing and could be easily negated, since it contradicts the essence of the constitution and the philosophy of the parliamentary system. Nonetheless, the opposition sees it as a “message” rather than as a “political stance.” Some observers believe that this message was also addressed to Sistani, in a bid to support his definition of a “civil state.”
The year 2013 could bring misfortunes — or solutions. Iraqis' ability to negotiate a new deal and to redefine coexistence and the mechanisms of rule will decide whether or not the number 13 will be a jinx. It is yet to be decided if this year will be a step back or a step forward.