Parliamentary Debate On Election

Parliamentary Debate on Election System Collapses
5 US Troops Killed over Weekend

The Sunday news cycle took a roller coaster ride with regard to whether the constitution drafting committee of the Iraqi parliament will be finished by August 15. It must request a postponement by today if it is going to seek one. First, committee chair Humam al-Hamoudi said they might ask for a one-month delay rather than the 6-month delay that is permitted by the Transitional Administrative Law (interim constitution). That seems to have sent President Jalal Talabani ballistic, and he intervened to say that there must be no postponement. He differed in that stance from his Kurdish colleagues on the committee, many of whom were reportedly seeking a six-month postponement. Finally, it was announced that the committee would meet the Aug. 15 deadline for most of the constitution, but might continue working on some particularly contentious articles. I’m not sure that move would be constitutional (I should have thought Aug. 15 was an all or nothing affair). But now that parliament is elected and sovereign, I suppose it may do as it pleases.

On Sunday, LBC reports that Sunni Arab parliamentarians made a push to have the next elections by 18 electoral districts, instead of having Iraq just one district. The latter system, used on Jan. 30, allowed Sunni Arabs to be virtually excluded from parliament. In a district-based system, Anbar would probably get 11 or so seats, and they would be filled by Sunnis, even if the turnout of the voters was light. In a system where all Iraq is the electoral district, nobody might represent Anbar. Al-Hayat says that the change to provincial voting districts was sought by the Shiites of the United Iraqi Alliance.

The Sunnis and/or Shiites did not get their debate, because the Kurdish Alliance and the Iraqiyah list of Iyad Allawi boycotted the session, depriving it of a quorum. They insisted that such a serious debate needed to be announced at least a couple of days beforehand so that all parties could prepare for it, not just sprung suddenly. In a district-based election, Allawi’s list very likely would be reduced to 2-4 delegates, since it gets votes only from the small Baghdad and Basra middle class. On Jan. 30, the Iraqiyah garnered 14 percent. The Kurds would also see their 75 parliamentary delegates somewhat reduced. They would get elected primarily from 6 provinces, which would presumably have about 90 seats out of 275. But Kurds would be assured of dominating the delegations of only three of them, while the other three are mixed.

Guerrillas near Mahawil on the way from Karbala to Baghdad attacked a convoy of Ahmad Chalabi’s men on Sunday, killing one bodyguard and wounding 3. A guerrilla group announced that they had struck at Chalabi, a deputy premier in the new government. He was not, however, in the convoy, according to his spokesman.

In addition to this attack and the car bombing at al-Haswa early Sunday morning, reported here yesterday, here is Reuters’ round-up of deaths in the guerrilla war:

Guerrillas in BAQUBA attacked cooks who were departing a military base, killing one and wounding three.

Guerrillas in KIRKUK assassinated a translator for the US military.

Reuters adds:

“BAIJI – Insurgents attacked a minibus transporting Iraqi civilians working at an American base, killing three and critically wounding three in Baiji, 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, on Saturday night.

KUFA – Gunmen opened fire on the convoy of Ibrahim Issawi, senior adviser to the environment minister, killing one of his security guards and wounding three on Saturday, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The attack took place in the southern Shi’ite town of Kufa, about 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.”

Guerrillas killed 5 US troops and wounded 2 others in two separate incidents on Saturday.

The Iraqi Health and Defense Ministries estimate that 4000 Iraqis have been killed in the guerrilla war in 2005, half of them civilian noncombatants.

Robert Fox of the Independent says that British forces in southern Iraq are worried that Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia and other paramilitaries in southern Iraq are getting training and funding from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards:

“Last year British troops fought daily gun battles with Shia militiamen loyal to the maverick cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. This year the number of attacks has dropped, but the attackers appear to have had some highly professional training – almost certainly from militias and elements of the Revolutionary Guard across the border in Iran. The guerrillas now carefully orchestrate their attacks after tracking every move of British patrols by mobile phones, according to soldiers.”

They are apparently blaming the recent bombing of a British convoy that killed two private security guards on the Sadrists. They have intercepted what look to be shipments of rocket propelled grenade launchers and other weapons from Iran to the Shiite paramilitaries of the south. Fox adds:

“The British forces hope to have built up the local Iraqi army and police units sufficiently for them to take over security in Maysan and al-Mathana by next year. But while army training is going ahead, the police are proving more problematic – particularly as it is recognised that more than a quarter of them are loyal to Mr al-Sadr. “

The article ignores the likelihood that the Iranians are giving much more support to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq than to the Sadrists. SCIRI controls about 9 of 11 provinces where Shiites predominate or have a significant proportion of the population.

An Iran-Iraq parliamentary friendship group has been formed.

Was a CIA analyst fired for coming up with a source that said there was no longer an Iraqi nuclear program, while Bush and Cheney were pressing the agency to support their policy of going to war against Iraq? By the way, there was nothing secret about such reports. Imad Khadduri, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist, was telling anyone who would listen the same thing, and you could read it in the Irish Times in winter 2002-2003 if you were of a mind to. Somehow Imad didn’t get the face time on American cable television “news” that the notorious liar Khidir Hamza did (also a former nuclear scientist, but a collaborator with the American Enterprise Institute in manufacturing a case for war).

Alcohol sales have been banned at Baghdad airport. I suspect that the whole country will be dry soon. The evidence from Iran and Pakistan, though, is that if people cannot get booze they turn to other drugs. Pakistan has a million heroin addicts, and I’ve heard that at middle class parties in Iran, if the hosts don’t offer opium they are considered cheap. In the meantime, I suppose the good news is that if there was anyplace you’d just as soon nervous airplane staff couldn’t get hold of liquor, it is Baghdad airport.

More evidence that war is bad for human beings: A forthcoming paper will suggest that Gulf War vets exposed to toxic chemicals are at higher risk for brain cancer.

Reuters Baghdad bureau chief Andrew Marshall replies to the charge that reporters ignore good news in Iraq:

“I regard the charge that journalists in Iraq are skewing their reporting and focusing ‘too much on bad news’ as ill-informed, and a great insult to the Iraqi people. Many of those who criticize Iraq coverage seem to be suggesting that the media should somehow play down or ignore the fact that so many Iraqi civilians are being killed. It’s an attitude that implies that Iraqis are not entitled to the level of safety and security enjoyed by people elsewhere in the world. Of course, some progress is being made in Iraq. Many people in Iraq, including U.S. soldiers, are doing their best to rebuild the country and improve security. But taken in isolation, the renovation of a power plant or the opening of a new school are not a story unless placed in the wider context, and the wider context is that reconstruction is proceeding much more slowly than had been expected.”

The rightwing demand that “good news” be reported from Iraq has long struck me as similar to that advertising campaign where the lawyer tells a client he has good news, and the client, excited, asks what it is, and the lawyer says “I’ve saved a lot on my car insurance.” Good news for whom? Let me just suggest that if bombs were going off in Republican neighborhoods in the United States, the local mayor couldn’t mollify the Republicans by saying, “But we painted the school! Why are you ignoring the good news?”

Asahi Shimbun’s Yoshibumi Wakamiya contemplates nuclear war, crimes against humanity, suicide as a tactic of war, blind obedience, and ties together Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Saipan, London and Iraq. I found it a powerful meditation on the worst of the contemporary human condition.

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