Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tori Amos

Craig McLean (Independent) interviews Tori Amos about her new album:

Amos lives in Cornwall with her English husband of 16 years, Mark Hawley, a sound engineer. There’s also a place in County Cork, and a beach-house in Florida. But this home and studio complex, built round old farm buildings and set in three acres, is where Amos has made her albums for “years”. The freedom to come and go and record as she pleases, she says, is hugely liberating (and, of course, economical). And you can hear as much on that new album. Unrepentant Geraldines is Amos’s first “straight” album in five years, following as it does 2009’s seasonal album Midwinter Graces, 2011’s classically-shaped Night of Hunters, and 2012’s back-catalogue orchestral reimagining Gold Dust. But with the woman who shot to international fame with the beautiful but coruscating Little Earthquakes (1992), and hit singles like “Cornflake Girl”, “straight” is relative.
Yes, there are pretty melodies and nape-tingling vocals aplenty on this album, named after a 19th-century Irish painting. But this artist, who’s the midpoint in a continuum stretching back to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush and forward to Florence Welch and Lorde was never going to write a conventionally commercial album. There are attacks on the IRS, HMRC and the NSA (on the purposefully jaunty “Giant’s Rolling Pin”), inspirations drawn from Cézanne (on “16 Shades of Blue”), and meditations on age, both her daughter’s (“you don’t have to throw... being a kid away” she sings on “Rose Dover”) and her own.

And you may notice that some people can write about the world around them -- unlike Bruce Springsteen who's unable to churn out anything beyond a vapid thought these days.

I'm really looking forward to Tori's album.

And if you can't stream or need Closed Captioning, she's saying in the video:

Well there are many paintings of the repentant Magdalene.  And I was looking at these paintings and showed up at the Irish House and low and behold there was a print on the wall of Geraldine and she looked repentant so I was looking --- looking for the story.  I started thinking in my mind about being repentant and being unrepentant about things, not apologizing for your beliefs.  Every song that's making the album has to resonate with the now.  All bets are off here.  And I needed to experiment.  I needed to try things. I'm finding my own way for myself and that's really what part of the record is about for me

Daniel Maclise has a painting entitled The Woodranger which I've always found to be very sensual.

Daniel Maclise lived in the 1800s, he died in 1870 (born in Ireland in 1806).  His art had a hand in the album, as is noted in the following press release:

Unrepentant Geraldines

Press Release (March 2014)

Tori Amos has been away. She's been exploring the depths of the seasons, and of festive tradition, a sense-tingling journey captured in her 2009 album Midwinter Graces. She's been time-travelling through 400 years of classical music, an odyssey that found form in Night of Hunters (2011), her first release on Deutsche Grammophon. She's been revisiting her own, two decades-strong back-catalogue, reimagining her compositions in an orchestral setting for her 2012 album Gold Dust.

And Tori Amos has been hiding in the wings, and beetling backstage, and peering anxiously from the gods – the American-born, Cornwall-based singer-songwriter spent much of 2013 co-creating The Light Princess, a musical staged in partnership with London's National Theatre.

She needed, she concedes now, to escape – from her past, from the norm, from her well-established musical career path.

"After 2009 I walked into three records that are sort of a period of writing that was a different stylistic choice," says Amos. "I needed to walk away from contemporary songwriting. I needed to do something different as a writer. And I remember being on tour in Poland in 2009, and looking up to the muses and saying: 'I have got to do something different!'" she laughs. "Because I felt like I had pushed it to the envelope of my abilities – meaning, the envelope of my intelligence! I was on the edge! I was skating! I couldn't create any more in the same way."

But those three diverse album projects, followed by her first full-bore theatrical project, alchemised something anew within. Out of the flux of ambition and distraction and imagination came Tori Amos's 14th studio album: Unrepentant Geraldines.

"Women would talk to me about feeling trapped, which is explored a lot in this record – there's a freedom I had writing this record. But I could only have that freedom because of the other three projects and doing The Light Princess – writing for other voices, other people, other artists. Working with an orchestra, with an octet, a Polish quartet... I've worked with hundreds of people in the last three or four years. Which is kinda crazy!" she smiles. "When you think about the National Theatre, that's like an army of stage people that you get to collaborate with on a daily basis."

That energy is focused, centralised and concentrated on the vivid and vital Unrepentant Geraldines. It's an album on which Amos once more zeroes in on the writing of brightly melodic, deftly evocative chamber-pop. Fairy-tale soul-poems, you might say.

"I turned 50 this year – and certain people really helped me to see it in a different way and grab it with both hands. The song 16 Shades of Blue talks about ageing from many points of view. And as I started to dive into it, I started to learn from women of all ages that age was a difficult thing for them – whether you're talking to a 15-year-old who feels pressure to choose their career path for life or a 33-year-old who fears she won't get the promotion if it is known that she is planning a family. They all felt the pressures in the ageing process."

That discovery was followed by another, one that spoke to Amos both as a lifelong art lover and as a writer with a sharp new perspective on life. It would give her the title for her new album.

"I discovered Cezanne this past year. And I just never got it before. All my life I have been going to art and artists to hear. One day I was looking through a book and I started hearing when I stumbled upon Cezanne's 'The Black Clock.' He was known to have at least 16 Shades of Blue as part of his color palette.

"Last year I discovered an etching by Daniel Maclise, who was a 19th century Irish artist of a penitent woman called 'Geraldine.' A painter friend of mine showed it to me. He told me I needed to have this painting on my wall. When I saw it, it reminded me of the 'Repentant Magdalene' paintings of Seghers, de la Tour and Titian and what women have had to go through, over the centuries, and how women's sexuality has been judged and shamed.

"I began thinking about religion and the world and the 21st century, and if most women can honestly say they feel that their spiritual and secular aspects are completely integrated. The women I have spoken with in many countries have spoken to me about compartments and that their spiritual self is in one drawer protected from their sexual self which lives in its own detached realm. There has to be a way where we as women can integrate our spiritual self and our passionate self that is harmonious."

Amos also wrote from the perspective of a mother. The beguiling Rose Dover – mid-Seventies Queen meets Joni Mitchell – is a musically adventurous yet emotionally reassuring lullaby handed down to her 13-year-old daughter.

"Tash is a huge influence on the record. She also sings on a song called Promise. When she was younger, the conversations of course were different. The exposure in the last few years to what she's reading, listening to, watching, and how she sees the world – she has become a muse for me. Because I look through her eyes and am exposed to things that I wouldn't be exposed to if I were left to my own choices. So watching what inspires the conversations that 13, 14-year-olds are having is really interesting. And how to grow up with your imagination intact, how to not have that destroyed, is very much Rose Dover's story."

Then there's Trouble's Lament, an eerie Southern blues song in which Amos's matchless voice conjures up images of how the "flames from Satan's tongue are charged and licking at her heels..."

"Having been born in North Carolina, the South walks with me wherever I am in the world," she nods. "I can't get it out of my DNA. I don't know if it's a genetic thing, 'cause my mother's side, so far back, is from the Eastern Cherokee nation. So it's really in the blood. It's almost like you listen to the land speaking to you. And wherever I am I can hear the South calling me."

America's South also makes a tangential appearance in Giant's Rolling Pin. It's a pithy, spry, jig-like satire on the NSA/Edward Snowden affair that also references the magical, truth-giving powers of pies made by "Beth," "Marlene" and "Caroline," three remarkable women based out of a cafe near Amos's beach home in Florida.

"I love these women! You look out of your glasses at them and think they've got some kind of alchemy going on in that kitchen. You just feel better when you've had their food!"

As to how the revelations of the NSA's mass spying on the civilian populace impacted on Amos, she replies that she responded the only way she knew how.

"As an American you have to ask all kinds of questions, and as a writer you have to, too. You have to think, yeah, probably everybody does spy and not just the security arm of our governments. But, um, interesting choice to run and hide with the Russians, who are really great to gays and women!" she notes archly of Snowden's choice of asylum. "I'm not," she adds, "being one of those crazy American patriots. But as a writer I try and pull back and be fair. And you kind of think: wow, these revelations needed to happen, but some of 'em didn't. When you're putting certain people's lives at risk, you have to ask yourself, "Would I have gone that far?"

"So, it's a commentary on all those things. It's about the tax man as well – there are no checks and balances with our tax authorities. I try not to pick a side when I write like that."

From global and institutional politics to personal and emotional ones: Oysters is a classic Amos piano ballad, evocative of her timeless breakthrough album, 1992's Little Earthquakes.

"There are references to surviving, and how things from your past stay with you. Experiences stay with you. And you have to find a way to create with them. Or the voices in your head can intimidate you. Can make you doubt yourself. Self-doubt can be a harmful bully."

This theme, she adds, is explored elsewhere on an album written over the past few years and entirely recorded in her Cornwall studio with long-time collaborators Mark Hawley and Marcel Van Limbeek, "working as a triangle."

The return, as it were, of guitars isn't even the half of it. Tori Amos has been away – diving off the edge, shining a light on the past, peering under the curtain, interacting with musicians and choreographers and writers and women aplenty – but now she's back. She's changed, and she's happier – buzzier, busier – for it. Coming next: an 80-date world tour, just her and her piano.

"Working with all these people made me see and hear things in a different way. Watching other creative people and how they approach things – it really has been life-changing for me," she beams.

"I wouldn't have known in 2009 that by 2014 I would really almost have a fresh approach to creating and working. And having worked on a musical with all those people really got me to think about structures. And on this record I brought a lot of what I explored writing for different voices and instruments."

But don't take her word for it. Unrepentant Geraldines' creative consultant has a view, too.

"Tash said something to me. She said, 'You know, your albums, I've always seen them as being a certain phase you're going through...' This is my 13-year-old telling me this! And she said, 'I don't see this as a phase. I see moments of all your records. And then things that I've never heard before, that might have come from the musical. You're starting to write certain stories from the perspective of being a mom, and from being 50. Because you've lived.'"

For all her lyrical acuity and mum-smarts, Tori Amos couldn't have put it better herself.

For full Unrepentant Geraldines tour dates check:

Tori's new album comes out May 13th.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, April 25, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, a rally of a terrorist group in Baghdad gets bombed,  the US sends more Americans into Iraq, campaign season heats up, Tareq al-Hashemi shares his thoughts, and much more.

Mark Hosenball, Warren Strobel, Phil Stewart, Ned Parker, Jason Szep and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report, "The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said."  It was 1961 when US President John F. Kennedy sent 1364 "advisors" into Vietnam.  The next year, the number was just short of 10,000.  In 1963, the number hit 15,500.  You remember how this ends, right?

The advisers get to participate in the War Crimes of chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.  As he continues to bomb the residential neighborhoods of Falluja, NINA notes four civilians were injured today. NINA reports: "Fallujah Education Hospital announced on Friday that / 1418 / people killed and injured in the city of Fallujah since the beginning of military operations."  That's 259 civilians killed and 1159 injured. These are War Crimes, the term is "collective punishment." And the bombings are aided by 'intel' provided by the US.

Earlier this week, we noted this from Fanar Haddad "Sectarian Relations and Sunni Identity in Post-Civil War Iraq" (Middle East Institute):

For example, many have fairly asked why Iraqi state television, namely Al Iraqiya, airs the confessions of dozens of (Sunni) terrorists but never of a (Shi‘i) militia commander? For that matter, why are different terms applied to Sunni and Shi‘i militant groups, namely terrorists and militias, if not to deny any moral equivalence between them? A remarkable example of double standards is how the state deals with the Mahdi Army and other Shi‘i militant groups: why is it that an organization heavily involved in the civil war, and parts of which are responsible for atrocious crimes, is allowed to hold public events and rallies with state approval? And why is the extension of similar courtesies to any Sunni militants unthinkable? Such questions reinforce the conviction that the new Iraq directly or otherwise targets Sunni Arabs. Te depth of Sunni feelings of encirclement is perhaps best illustrated in the claim made by some that they had personally seen banners in Baghdad on 9 April 2003 displaying the slogan “No Sunnis after today.” 

It's worth noting again.  And pondering.  Why are Shi'ite 'militant' groups allowed to hold rallies?  Why are Sunnis militants called "terrorists" and Shi'ite called "militias"?

It's especially worth asking today.

Five days before scheduled parliamentary elections, an eastern Baghdad campaign rally was bombed.  BBC News offers a photo essay. Ben Mathis-Lilley (Slate) posts photos of the bombing taken by Thaier al-Sudani (Reuters).  NBC News has video of outside the stadium.   NINA notes  al-Senaa Sports Club is the stadium the rally was being held in.  Iran's Focus Information Agency notes that the gathering was a "rally for the Saadiqun bloc, the political wing of the Asaib Ahel al-Haq militia"  BBC News adds, "Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is backed by Iran and is a public supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."  Raheem Salman  (Reuters)  reports, "The militant group, Asaib Ahl Haq (League of the Righteous), introduced its candidates for elections on April 30 at the rally in eastern Baghdad."

The League of what?

Peter Moore and four other British citizens were kidnapped by the League of Righteous. Of the other four, three corpses were turned over: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindelhurst and Alec Maclachlan in one handover.  Much, much later, the remains of of Alan McMenemy were handed over. The kidnapping was mentioned in the State Dept's "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:"

Five British men (a computer expert and four bodyguards) were kidnapped in 2007. Peter Moore, the computer expert, was released unharmed on December 30, while the bodies of three of the four bodyguards were returned on June 19 and September 3 to the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the fifth man remained unknown at year's end. Fifteen Americans, four South Africans, four Russian diplomats, and one Japanese citizen who were abducted since 2003 remained missing. There was no further information on the 2007 kidnapping of the Ministry of Science and Technology acting undersecretary, Samir Salim al-Attar.

For more on the League, we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

That's the League of Righteous.  Yet few outlets will label them as militants -- let alone as terrorists.  They are terrorists.  Tim Arango and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) report on today's rally:

Festooned around the stadium were banners bearing the names and faces of the men the group had lost in Syria, more than 80 names in all. Men in militia uniforms -- green camouflage with Asaib Ahl al-Haq patches on the sleeves -- some just back from the battlefield in Syria, lined the track surrounding the soccer field. As the group’s parliamentary candidates filed into the stadium, a campaign song played through scratchy stereo speakers.

Jane Arraf (PBS NewsHour) notes:

Its leader, Qais al-Khazali, spent more than two years in U.S. detention, believed by the U.S. to have organized and ordered the killing of five American soldiers in Karbala in 2007. He and other leaders of the Iranian-backed militant group were later released in what was believed to be a swap for a captured British contractor and the bodies of his slain security guards. Rehabilitated and rebranded, the group has emerged as a political party, running candidates in the elections for the first time.

Rehabilitated by whom, Jane?  A lazy press?  Believed to be a trade?  Months after the hand off of Moore and the three corpses, the League went to the Iraqi press to explain why Alan McMenemy wasn't handed over: the White House didn't keep their promise.  And this rehab?  The US Dept of Treasury didn't think so.  This is their press release on Qais al-Khazali -- read it and look for 'rehabilitated':

Treasury Designates Hizballah Commander Responsible for American Deaths in Iraq


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi (Daqduq) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for acting on behalf of Hizballah. Daqduq is a senior Hizballah commander responsible for numerous attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq, including planning an attack on the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center (JPCC) on January 20, 2007, which resulted in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers. 
On March 20, 2007, Coalition Forces in southern Iraq captured Daqduq, who falsely claimed to be a deaf mute at the time and produced a number of false identity cards using a variety of aliases.  From January 2009 until December 2011, U.S. military forces held Daqduq in Iraq under the terms of the 2008 "Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq" (the Security Agreement).  In December 2011, the United States transferred Daqduq to Iraq's custody in accordance with our obligations under the Security Agreement.  He was subsequently tried in Iraq on terrorism and other charges.  On May 7, 2012, an Iraqi court dismissed terrorism and false documents charges against him.  Daqduq remained in Iraqi custody until last week when the Iraqi government determined that it no longer had a legal basis to hold him, and he was released Friday.
"Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi is a dangerous Hizballah operative responsible for planning and carrying out numerous acts of terrorism in Iraq," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "The United States is extremely disappointed he was allowed to go free and we will continue our efforts to bring him to justice." 
Today's action further highlights the fact that Hizballah's terrorist activities stretch beyond the borders of Lebanon.  These terrorist acts are in some cases funded, coordinated, and carried out in concert with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).  Hizballah, along with its Iranian allies, trained and advised Iraqi militants to carry out numerous terrorist attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces.
Daqduq has been a member of Hizballah since 1983 and has served in multiple Hizballah leadership positions, including as commander of a Hizballah special forces unit and chief of a protective detail for Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. 
In approximately 2005, Iran asked Hizballah to form a group to train Iraqis to fight Coalition Forces in Iraq.  In response, Hassan Nasrallah established a covert Hizballah unit to train and advise Iraqi militants in Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) and JAM Special Groups, now known as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq.
As of 2006, Daqduq had been ordered by Hizballah to work with IRGC-QF to provide training and equipment to JAM Special Groups to augment their ability to inflict damage against U.S. troops.
Identifying Information
Individual:  Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi
AKA:  Ali Musa Daqduq
AKA:  Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Lami
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad al-Lami
AKA:    Husayn Muhammad Jabur al-Musui
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Musui
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Daqduq al-Musawi
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Musawi
AKA:    Hamid Majid 'Abd al-Yunis
Nationality:  Lebanese
DOB No. 1:  1 September 1969
DOB No. 2:  31 December 1971
DOB No. 3:  9 August 1971
DOB No. 4:  9 September 1970
DOB No. 5:  9 August 1969
DOB No. 6:  5 March 1972
POB No. 1:  Beirut, Lebanon
POB No. 2:  Al-Karradah, Baghdad, Iraq

Arraf  appeared on The NewsHour tonight.

Al Jazeera notes of the League of Righteous, "Its leader, Sheik Qais al-Khazali, spent years in U.S. detention but was released after he was handed over to the Iraqi government. At the rally Friday, he gave a brief address that challenged militants holding two cities in Anbar province."  And when the bombs went off?

Did he show leadership, this 'brave' leader?  Did he tend to the hurt, call for calm?  No.  Al Jazeera notes the little princess turned tail and ran, "Security guards jumped on al-Khazali and pushed him away from the stadium after the blasts."  What a little princess.  Just like when he got caught by coalition forces and claimed he was deaf.   Gulf Times reports the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has announced they carried out the attack and that the leader of the League of Rightous (which ISIL called "the League of the Vain")  had spoken to the assembled just before the attack and had boasted, "To all ISIL . . . we are ready.  We are prepared.  We are the defenders of this country.  You will never reach us." And then came the attack and the little princess was rushed out of the stadium instead of standing like a leader and offering help.  Reuters notes the speech as follows:

[. . .] Sheik Qais Khazaali, had just delivered a speech accusing some politicians of aiding terrorism and vowed his movement was ready for any action by ISIS.
"To all ISIS... we are ready. We are prepared," he said.
"We are the defenders of this country. If ISIS is the sickness, were are the medicine."

We are prepared . . . We are defenders . . . I must be rushed out of here by my security detail because I'm such a delicate flower and have no leadership skills.

  • Before the attack on his rally, Shiite cleric Qais Khazaali warned: “If ISIL is the sickness, were are the medicine."

  • Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report, "Attendees fled to a nearby building under construction in the stadium complex as female parliamentary candidates screamed and prayed for safety." Citing an unnamed Ministry of the Interior official as the source, Sky News reports the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim was present in the stadium.

    Al Jazeera says 10,000 people were in the stadium. And that Sheik Qais al-Khazali spoke at the gathering and insulted Sunnis.  al-Khazali was in US custody but Barack Obama decided to negotiate with terrorists so Peter Moore and four corpses could be released to England.  America's president likes to say he thought Nouri al-Maliki was going to prosecute al-Khazali but even Barack can't be that dumb. And certainly Congress was raising objections.  Dropping back to November 19, 2012:

    And many senators were calling for Daqduq to be brought to the United States and tried.  Instead, in 2011, the White House turned him over to Iraq and received 'promises' regarding Daqduq's fate.
    'Promises" turned out not be all that.  As noted in Friday's snapshot, " Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that the rumors Ali Musa Daqduq had been released from Iraqi custody are true (see Wednesday's snapshot).  It's a huge embarrassment for the White House.  Victoria Nuland, State Dept spokesperson, was asked about it in today's press briefing."  Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) reported Friday:
    In a phone call on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that the United States believed that Mr. Daqduq should be held accountable for his actions and that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, an American official said. Robert S. Beecroft, the United States ambassador in Baghdad, made a similar appeal to Mr. Maliki that day. But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who this year had been ordered released by an Iraqi court.
    Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reminds that when the White House announced their plan to hand Daqduq over to Iraq, many members of Congress objected before the transfer took place, "Ms. [Senator Kelly] Ayotte and 18 other Senators called on U.S. officials not to hand him over to Iraq, but the Iraqi government insisted on taking him into custody."  

    Nouri released him and now even pays the 'militia' which hunts and kills Sunnis in Iraq.  It's a detail no one mentions in today's reporting.  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke that news in September of last year:

    In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

    They're terrorists.  The League of Righteous is terrorist.  You can step back and argue that with regards to British and American forces, they were at war.  (You don't have to step back, if you don't want to.)  But they are terrorists on the government payroll to terrorize the Sunni population in Iraq.

    And if you don't step back, you should grasp that the US had placed al-Khazali in military prison and the plan was to put him on trial -- US military trial -- for his killing of 5 US service members.  But Barack decided to let him go.  Maybe Barack can fly to Baghdad and campaign for him?

    There were at least three bombs  Al Jazeera says 31 people are dead and fifty-six more injured. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) updates the numbers to 33 dead and ninety injured.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "A car bomb first hit the gathering. It was followed by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest."   EFE notes, "Some of the fatalities belonged to the group handling electoral publicity for the Sadequn alliance, whose candidates will run for office in the legislative elections next Wednesday."

     Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Drop the 9032 down to 9031.  Al Arabiya News reports Sheikh Abdulkarim Dousari was shot dead in Basra.  He was a Sunni politician.  An aide was also shot dead and Dousari's son and one other person were left wounded.  Monday, security forces will vote.  Wednesday the rest of Iraq -- minus some parts of Anbar Province -- will vote.  Iraqi refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote.  Iraqi refugees elsewhere will be allowed to vote.  For example, Miriam Raftery (East County Magazine) reports:

    All Iraqi-born people living in the U.S. are eligible to vote, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce announced today.  Locally, eligible voters can cast their ballots on April 27-28 at the Crystal Ballroom, 414 North Magnolia Avenue in El Cajon from 12-2 p.m.

    Al Jazeera offers a photo essay on the campaign posters and other voting issues.  We'll note this Tweet on the elections.

  • Najaf's Grand Ayatollahs don't have a unified stance on Iraq elections. Sistani, Fayadh & Hakim support no one. Najafi supports Ammar Hakim.
  • DPA notes, "Despite the ongoing bloodshed, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking to win a third term in office in the April 30 vote."  All Iraq News notes that MP Bahaa al-Araji (Ahrar bloc) stated the government was responsible for providing security but instead "the governmental and security officials are busy with their electoral propagandas leaving the country towards the unknown."

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing left Iraqi soldiers injured, Judge Edan Hassan Khalaf was left wounded "in an armed attack on his home west of Kirkuk," a Hamrin roadside bombing left 1 person dead and another injured, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 4 suspects, and an armed battle southeast of Ramadi left 9 rebels and 4 soldiers dead.  Alsumaria adds that last night that 1 police officer was shot dead in Qadisiyah.  All Iraq News notes "4 Iraqi Army Intelligence elements were killed [. . .] at the main road between Beji and Tikrit."

    David Ignatius (Washington Post) offers:

    How did such catastrophic violence return to Iraq? That’s really the saddest part of the story. The United States helped engineer Maliki’s reelection as prime minister in 2010. But once the Americans had left, Maliki’s government foolishly created a vacuum that allowed Sunni extremists to take root again in western Iraq after they had been crushed by the U.S.-backed tribal movement called the Sahwa, or “Awakening.”
    Zaydan’s cousin, Sheik Sattar Abu Risha, was one of the Sahwa’s founders. But when Maliki reneged on promises to keep paying the tribesmen, they turned elsewhere for support. Now, with Anbar in revolt, Maliki has tried to revive the Sahwa network, offering fighters as much $400 a month to back the government. But it’s probably too late. “That ship has sailed,” says the Pentagon expert.

    The ship has sailed and, in fact, sunk.  Iraq has a prime minister: Nouri al-Maliki.  It also has a president.  At least in name. December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    Iraq's missing more than just a president.  It has a vice president, Khodair al-Khozaei.  He's the Shi'ite Vice President and he is in Iraq.  He is one of the country's two vice presidents.  The other?

    Tareq al-Hashemi is the Sunni Vice President and he is not in Iraq.  We'll note this from Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai's "Iraq in Crisis:"

    The Hashimi case quickly escalated into a major political crisis in December 2011, only days after the US occupation ended. Vice President Hashimi was leader of the largest Sunni coa lition, the Iraqi Accord Front , whose most powerful faction was the Iraqi Isla mic Party (IIP). He had supported a unified Iraq, but was one of the Sunnis who had withdrawn from the 2005 election, had called for oil revenues to be distributed based on population, had opposed de-Ba'athification as often arbitrary and unjust, and want stronger Sunni representation in the Iraqi Security Forces. He had argued that Sunni and other provinces could individually take the decision whether or not to form federal regions, and some reports indicated that he had tried in 2006 to form a multiparty coalition to replace Maliki. 
    Hashimi had become a symbol of Sunni opposition to Maliki during 2011, and it was far from clear that this opposition did not involve some form of conspiracy against Maliki . A wide range of open sources show, however, that Maliki acted first. 199 While the full range of fact in the case is unclear, and media sources are contradictory, it does seem clear that Maliki sent Iraqi security forces to arrest him and they surrounded his house in the Green Zone on December 15, 2011. At least two of his bodyguards were attacked and beaten and five more were arrested and interrogated under conditions that were suspect at best. 
    Hashimi was ordered not to travel abroad and -- in what became something of a model of the kind of charges Maliki was to use in the future -- Iraq's Judicial Council issued an arrest warrant for him on December 19, 2011. The warrant came only a day after the last US combat forces officially left Iraq, and the charges were very broad. They accused Hashimi of organizing bombing attacks, as participating in terrorist activities, controlling an assassination squad, and killing senior Shi’ite officials. They were based on confessions obtained from his bodyguards, and five more of them were arrested on the day the warrant was issued. 
    Hashimi denied all the charge the next day, having fled to Irbil in the Kurdish Regional Government the day before the warrant was issued, leading some sources to believe Maliki had given him warning in an effort to drive him out of the country, rather than hold an embarrassing show trial that would lead to his actual imprisonment and make him more of a Sunni martyr. The risks involved are illustrated by the fact that the Sunni Iraqiyya party had 91 seats in the Majlis and began a boycott of the Majlis that virtually froze it operation. This boycott ended in late January 2012 , but only after the US Embassy made intense efforts to end it without publically taking a stand on the charges. 
    The Iraqi Ministry of Interior called for the Interior Ministry of the KRG to extradite Hashimi to Baghdad on January 8th 2012 . By that time, Hashimi had said that 53 of his bodyguards and employees had been arrested. Hashimi responded by demanding to be tried in Kirkuk, but a court in Baghdad rejected his demand on January 15, 2012. In February 2012 , a panel of Iraqi judges accused him of directing paramilitary teams to conduct more than 150 attacks during 2006 - 2012 against political opponents, Iraqi security officials -- including a Shi’ite brigadier general -- and Shi’ite pilgrims. 
    Massoud Barzani , president of the KRG, formally rejected Baghdad’s demand for extradition in M arch 2012. The fact Kurdish leaders protected Hashimi --  in addition to conflicts between the KRG and central government over oil concessions and finances -- raised tensions to the point where Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani threatened to separate the KRG from Iraq during his visit to Washington in April 2012. 
    Hashimi continued to deny all charges and claimed constitutional immunity . He then left Iraq to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and did so in his official capacity as vice president of Iraq. Hashimi claimed in an interview in Al-Jazeera on April 4, 2012 that accusations that he ran a death squad “have a sectarian dimension.” He claimed that he was the “fifth Sunni figure to be targeted” by the Shia-led government, and that, “More than 90 percent of the detainees in Iraq are Sunnis.” al-Hashimi said he would return to Iraq to carry out his vice presidential duties, despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s demands that he face trial. 
    He also claimed -- with considerable accuracy -- that, “Corruption in the country is widespread,” that the prime minister’s policies were undermining "the unity of Iraq," that al-Maliki’s government was giving "military assistance" to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. "There is information about Iraqi militias fighting alongside the Syrian regime," al-Hashimi told Al-Jazeera. He also stated that there were "unconfirmed reports that Iraq’s airspace was being used to help [Assad’s] regime," and hinted at Iranian involvement. 
    The KRG allowed Hashimi to travel to Qatar to meet with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani , on what the Qatari administration described as an official diplomatic visit on April 1, 201 2. Hussain al - Shahristani, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister , then attacked the visit and called for Hashimi to be handed over to the Iraqi central government . Qatar refused the request and Hashimi then travelled to Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal. Several days later, he went to Turkey with his family. Iraq Interpol issue a red notice for his arrest on May 8, 2012. The Turkish government rejected a request for extradition and granted him residence permit 
    A show trial then followed in May 2012, in which Hashimi and his son-in-law -- Ahmed Qahtan, his secretary -- were tried in absentia. The charges now included murder and well over 100 charges of involvement in terrorist attacks after 2003. A number of Hashimi's bodyguards "confessed" that he had personally ordered them to perform the attacks. Hashimi and Ahmed Qahtan were sentenced to death in absentia on September plotting to assassinate Interior Ministry official , and again sentenced in absentia to death. He was then sentenced in absentia to death three more times in December 2012. While Iraqi politics had remained a blood sport throughout the US occupation, the sheer volume of the charges and the way the confessions were obtained scarcely gave the trials great credibility. As for Hashimi he remained in exile, now the Sunni martyr that Maliki initially seemed to have tried to avoid.

    Abdulkadir Karakelle (Daily Sabah) speaks with Tareq al-Hashemi today.  Excerpt.

    Do you believe that the upcoming elections will reflect the will of all Iraqis?

    The major demand of the Iraqi people and the key issue is simply change. The upcoming election, however, is insufficient to fulfill this mission. Nori al-Maliki's endeavor to consolidate absolute power is the major threat. In order to achieve this and win the elections, al-Maliki is expected to manipulate the elections through fraud and cheating.
    Taking this into consideration, even if proven to be conducted as per international standards, there is no guarantee that the winning party is going to form the government - I am specifically referring to the 2010 elections. Generally speaking and taking into account the complexity and range of challenges we are faced with, I am not optimistic about the upcoming elections. What we need more right now is for the election to first stop the ongoing deterioration and to recourse the political process and put it back to on its democratic track. 

    The editorial board of the Daily Star isn't optimistic about this round of parliamentary elections and notes, "At the last elections, in 2010, it was clear that what the people of Iraq wanted did not really matter, and that with Iran’s backing, Nouri al-Maliki was sure to be re-elected."  Abdul Rahman al-Rashid (Arab News) observes, "The Americans, spending trillions of dollars, tried to do a similar thing and created a democracy in Iraq. The result, however, is disastrous. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has grabbed more power than the former dictator of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein. "
    This week Nouri again accused Saudi Arabia of interfering in Iraq.  BBC News noted:

    Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has told the BBC that Saudi Arabia has "clearly interfered" in Syria and in Iraqi internal affairs.
    He said he believed Saudi Arabia was facilitating the entry of foreign "mercenaries" into Iraq, worsening the sectarian violence.

    Mr Maliki said the violence in Syria was causing "security problems" in Iraq's Anbar province.

    Wait a second, the League of Rightous holds a campaign rally in Baghdad today where they brag about fighting in Syria and, as AFP noted earlier this week, Faleh al-Khazali is running on Nouri's State of Law address and bragging about how he's gone to Syria to fight Sunnis.

    Nouri's never been able to prove his longstanding accusations against Saudi Arabia but while he's making charges that others are interfering with Iraq, Shi'ites are publicly bragging about interfering in Syria including Faleh al-Khazali who is part of Nouri's State of Law coalition.

     qassim abdul-zahra
     the associated press
    hamza hendawi

    the new york times
    alissa j. rubin

    michael r. gordon

    the washington post
    david ignatius

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    The new Joni Mitchell album

    Color me pissed.

    Polly is a British community member (she does the newsletter Polly's Brew).  She e-mailed me to ask when I was reviewing Joni Mitchell's new album.

    I e-mailed her back, "WTF! Give details!"

    Because Polly knows music.  She's not going to hear that Emmylou Harris is releasing an album and confuse it with Joni.

    It's a concert she gave before she ever recorded an album.

    And it's available . . . in England.

    Exactly why is is not offered in America?

    This really pisses me off.

    It's 18 tracks.  Again, all live.

    You've got songs that would later be famous like "Little Green," "The Circle Game," "Both Sides Now," "Michael From Mountains," "I Don't Know Where I Stand," "Urge for Going," "Morning Morgantown," "Night in the City" and "Marcie."

    Or you've got them if you're in England.  But what about those of us not in the UK?

    Live at the Second Fret 1966 needs to be released in America.

    Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Thursday, April 24, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Reider Vissar sticks up for Nouri (again) and fails to grasp hyperbole, Nouri continues killing civilians in Falluja, campaigning continues in Iraq, a cleric is kicked out of Bahrain, and much more.

    As I stated in yesterday's snapshot:

    If Joel Wing or Reidar Visser see themselves as left, my apologies to them.  Although both have bent to Nouri's will too often for my tastes, I don't see them as right or left but more centrist analysts.

    And Visser bends to it again today. Dexter Filkens' New Yorker article led Visser to rush -- yet again -- to Nouri al-Maliki's defense.

    And his dishonesty means I'm forced to defend Dexter Filkins.

    Skepticism of any report is a good thing when approaching one.  But after you've read it -- I'm not sure Visser read it all -- your criticism needs to be sound.

    A colleague of Nouri al-Maliki's says he never smiles.  That's in the opening of the article.  As I noted on Sunday: "His intro should have been redone, it's a nightmare, but otherwise the writing is better than okay." The never smiles remark is what as known as hyperbole.

    Yet Visser makes this his first 'fact check' and maintains, "This assertion can be easily falsified by a simple Google Image search, and one assumes the longstanding Maliki associate is talking to Filkins because he is not any longer such a close associate and that maybe that, in turn, may explain the perceived absence of smiles."

    Again, it is hyperbole.  Visser calls his own competence as a media critic by failing to grasp hyperbole.

    Then Visser wants to insist:

    In his description of the 2010 government formation process, Filkins asserts that the Iraqi federal supreme court ruling that formally enabled post-election coalition forming “directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution”. This is just untrue. The problem is that the Iraqi constitution is mute when it comes to the relationship between electoral lists and parliamentary blocs. It just says the biggest parliamentary bloc will nominate the premier, and the supreme court simply repeated that sentence, with the addition that pre-election and post-election formation should be considered on an equal footing. 

    Visser's wrong and I can quote him.  Why can't he -- or more importantly -- why won't he quote Filkins?

    This is the section that Visser badly summarizes:

    In parliamentary elections the previous March, Maliki’s Shiite Islamist alliance, the State of Law, had suffered an embarrassing loss. The greatest share of votes went to a secular, pro-Western coalition called Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, a persistent enemy of the Iranians. “These were election results we could only have dreamed of,” a former American diplomat told me. “The surge had worked. The war was winding down. And, for the first time in the history of the Arab world, a secular, Western-leaning alliance won a free and fair election.”
    But even though Allawi’s group had won the most votes, it had not captured a majority, leaving both him and Maliki scrambling for coalition partners. And despite the gratifying election results, American officials said, the Obama Administration concluded that backing Allawi would be too difficult if he was opposed by Shiites and by their supporters in Iran. “There was no way that the Shia were not going to provide the next Prime Minister,” James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador at the time, told me. “Iraq will not work if they don’t. Allawi was a goner.”

    Shortly after the elections, an Iraqi judge, under pressure from the Prime Minister, awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government. The ruling directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution, but American officials did not contest it. “The intent of the constitution was clear, and we had the notes of the people who drafted it,” Sky, the civilian adviser, said. “The Americans had already weighed in for Maliki.”

    Now Reidar Visser, I've tried to be nice.  I haven't been linking to my piece "A crackpot runs AFP, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor" about how you thought you were being followed, that FBI posed as CIA, that you were harassed in US libraries and all the other things we should just leave behind.  But when you wrote your nonsense today, Reidar, you indirectly slammed me with voice mails as various friends in journalism called to tell me how accurate my call on you in that piece was.

    Flikins is correct, Emma Sky is correct.

    And, yes, I was correct.  This was one of the big things that I can remember Reider and 'others' getting wrong in real time that we went over and over.

    It was a violation of the Constitution and maybe Reider doesn't quote Emma Sky from Dexter's report because he realizes she has a lot more credibility than he does?

    Reidar doesn't not know the law.  When we're making arguments about the Iraqi Constitution here, it's usually pointed out to me by one of two Iraqis who actually worked on the Constitution (and one of them was a source for Dexter's article, by the way). I then look at the points they're making, walk through them with friends and then present them here.  And unlike Reidar Visser, I understand Constitutional Law and aced that and other legal courses.

    Equally true, until Nouri made public the secret judgment (which he sought before the election but didn't share), the operating belief was clear -- and was used in 2006 after the December 2005 parliamentary elections.  Also true, the judges don't make law in Iraq.  But that's what they did with their ruling for Nouri.

    Filkens is correct in his report, Reidar Visser is wrong and he's so appalling wrong that he's already chopping off the legs to any sort of comeback he might have.  His devotion to Nouri al-Maliki is apparently greater than his own need for self-preservation.

    He's as embarrassing as the eunuchs attempting to serve War Criminal Tony Blair.

    Take the ridiculous Jonathan Russell (Left Foot Forward) who screeches, "Tony Blair’s Bloomberg speech yesterday on the Middle East has been roundly criticised from various commentators, most of whom seemed to have not read or heard the actual speech. Brand Blair is considered toxic because of his legacy in Iraq, but the danger is that his valid arguments about Islamist extremism are lost."  We covered that speech in yesterday's snapshot.

    Here's a little tip for Jonathan Russell, something most people know -- all of those of  who don't suffer from wet dreams about Tony Blair.  He's not Einstein.  Tony Blair's not even an original thinker.  There's nothing he adds that's particular to him.  His message is already being tossed around -- by neoconservatives.

    Of Blair, Betty pointed out, "Tony Blair's the danger.  Today, he tried to paint others as being dangerous." The Daily Mail notes, "[. . .] as his speech yesterday made  clear, he remains in denial over his own role in inflaming terrorism by leading us into a bloody war in Iraq on the strength of a lie."  Arun Kundnani (Guardian) observes,  "Blair's supporters say he has discovered nuance. But the shift in his latest speech is not towards subtlety but a step back to the rhetoric of stability, and the abandonment of the post-9/11 neoconservative slogan of reordering the world. What remains is the hypocrisy of denouncing an ideology as inherently violent, and then launching a grand ideological war against it that results in far more violence."

    All of the above goes to the fact that Tony Blair's a lousy megaphone for any idea -- even if it was a good one.   Stop the War's Lindsey German and Robin Beste note 10 facts about Blair and we'll include the first four:

    1. Tony Blair has never shown a shred of remorse for the extremism of mass slaughter and destruction for which he was directly responsible, not least in Iraq.
    2. Tony Blair is a supporter of extremism around the world, whether it be the dictators in Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan, the despots ruling the oil states Kuwait and Bahrain, or Israel’s apartheid regime that occupies Palestinian land in contravention of international law and countless UN resolutions. When prime minister, not content with waging illegal wars, he was up to his neck in CIA torture and kidnapping ’every step of the way’.
    3. Tony Blair defends and applauds the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government in Egypt, saying that it ‘was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation’. He was a supporter of the Egyptian dictator Mubarak, calling him “immensely courageous and a force for good”,right up to the day he was overthrown in a popular revolution by the Egyptian people.

    4. Tony Blair blindly ignores the catastrophes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as he endlessly promotes more western military intervention, whether it be in Syria, Iran or beyond.

    Repeating, Tony Blair is not an original thinker.  His only value would be to popularize some theme or argument; however, his image is so negative that he can't even manage that.  His attempts to act as a megaphone will only harm any message someone wants to get out.

    Let's stay on this cult of personality nonsense for a moment.

    Anyone can get taken in, that's always a possibility.  But rational adults can realize they've been conned. Equally true, someone can support a Blair and then a Blair -- or a Nouri -- can morph into something else. At which point, the rational adult can walk away from supporting the person.

    I won't support Hillary Clinton if she runs for president.

    Some will.

    That's their choice, that's their business.

    For me, I think it was a slap in the face to her supporters for her to serve in Barack's administration.  It was four years of her supporters having to defend her daily because the partisans blamed her for everything.  They worked overtime to deny her the presidential nomination but then treated the Secretary of State as though she were the president and slammed for what the administration did.  Barack hid behind her skirts and I think Hillary betrayed the support she had by playing 'good soldier.'

    As a US senator she opposed the so-called 'surge' in Iraq.  As we now know from former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Hillary only opposed it for political reasons/posturing.

    That's actually fine with me.  And it's one of the few things she truly shares with her husband.  He was ridiculed for polling when he was president.  But that was about listening to the American people.  So Hillary listening to the people and opposing the surge?  I applaud that.

    It's why, in January of 2008, I realized I'd support her for president.  1) She would poll, she would listen.  2) She wasn't being fawned over.  Her supporters wanted her to fight for them.  They weren't ooohing and aaaweing over the baby fawn emerging from the forest.

    So she'd be held accountable -- by the right, by the left, by the center.  We've not seen with Barack.  We've seen a craven media fawn over him (and CBS really needs to address Sharyl Attkison's charges -- with one Rhodes brother in the administration and the other over CBS News, the network really needs to address this).  We've seen a faux left spend his first four years in office attacking Hillary so as not to say an unpleasant word about Barack.

    Medea Benjamin writes and co-writes entire articles on The Drone War that overlook the person in charge of it: Barack Obama.

    This is exactly what so many of us expected if he won the nomination.

    That was 2008.

    It's 2014 and Hillary's time in the administration coarsened her and amplified her bad habits.  When she went into her screaming fit before Congress -- that's not how you act before Congress, especially not when you're serving in an administration -- it was obvious how far gone she was.

    If I were a Cult of Personality -- or a liar -- I'd just smile and say, "Hillary's so wonderful . . ."

    Reider can't walk away from Nouri.

    He's not the only one.

    And the damage there?

    Well Emo youth in Iraq were targeted and it took forever for it to get attention in the US media -- the US music media did a better job of covering it than the news media ever did and the Denver Post was the only mainstream newspaper to treat the issue seriously.

    Emo was portrayed as vampires, devil worshipers and gay.  All of that combined was what an Emo was.

    And this was portrayed by?  Employees of the Ministry of the Interior who went into schools and lectured children and young adults about how 'evil' the Emo was and how the country of Iraq had to be protected from these people.

    There is no Minister of the Interior.  Nouri refused to nominate anyone for that post.  In fact, he refused to nominate anyone to head any of the security ministries.  Back in July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  Those positions were supposed to have been filled before the end of December 2010.  They were not.  They are still not filled.

    Nouri refused to fill them because once the Iraqi Parliament confirms a nominee, that nominee is autonomous.  Nouri can't fire them, only the Parliament can.  (Which isn't easy.  Nouri's gotten Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi convicted of 'terrorism' and sentenced to death with the Baghdad courts he controls but he can't get Parliament to strip Tareq of his title.)

    As Ayad Allawi pointed out in January of 2011, Nouri was not going to nominate people for these posts because he was conducting a power grab.

    That's what it was.

    The people 'in' those posts today are not in those posts.  They were not nominated so they don't have Parliament's approval.  Without that, they serve at the will of Nouri.  He can dismiss them because they don't really exist.  This has allowed him to control the security ministries.

    So when the Ministry of Interior went around to schools with their hand outs and their demonization of Emo and encouragement of violence against Emo?  That was Nouri.

    And Cult of Nouri prevented this very serious issue from getting immediate attention.

    The few that cover Iraq in the US didn't want to touch it.  Just like they ignored the Hawija massacre last year (Marcia noted it last night).

    And maybe some, like Reidar Visser, got so into Nouri that it became more important to their own image and name that they refused to note reality to protect both Nouri and themselves.

    As we've seen repeatedly, when they self-stroke, Iraqis die from violence.

    Nouri doesn't want a partner-sharing government.  He made that clear in his second term -- a term he only got by signing a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) promising to implement a power-sharing government. Now he's convinced he can form a majority government if he wins the April 30th elections.  (He's convinced he's going to win as well.) Today, Russ Wellen offers "Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the U.S. Ever Backed" (Foreign Policy In Focus).  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Thus, the only possible way to realize the State of Law's proposals for forming a majority government would be to jettison the two-thirds requirement.
    But there are other factors that come to bear on the mechanisms of forming a new government. Most saliently, every Iraqi government must obtain at least 165 seats in parliament to win legitimacy.
    The Iraqi electoral reality will simply not allow any political party to win that many seats, unless it forms a coalition with several other forces.
    As for Maliki's State of Law bloc, according to most estimates, it will have difficulty winning more than 80 seats in the current election. Gaining an additional 85 seats will require forging alliances with several parties amid the complex map of Iraqi partisan politics.


    Nouri wants a third term.  Trina weighed in on that last night, "Nouri's had two terms to fail in, it's time for a new prime minister."  Xinhua reports:

    Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Salih al-Mutlak said on Thursday that he opposes a third four-year term for current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, expressing his uncertainty for fair parliamentary elections next Wednesday.
    "I do not agree that the prime minister, Mr. al-Maliki, will take a third term in office. I do not agree that any politician will take a third term (of prime minister)," Mutlak said.

    All Iraq News notes:

    MP, Jawad al-Bazoni, confirmed that scenario after the elections will be a compromise between the Citizen Coalition and other blocs that feel closer to the Coalition.

    He stated to All Iraq Agency "The Coalition will be the key side to the reach the compromise with the other blocs."

    Elaine noted Nayla Razzouk, Khalid al-Ansary and Dana El Baltaji's Bloomberg News report that Nouri was "banking on sales from the highest crude oil output in 35 years to earn him a third term."  As always for Nouri, when he claims 'success,' fate slaps him in the face.  Hard.  Reuters notes today, "Iraq's oil exports fell to 2.39 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in March, the oil ministry said, down from a record 2.8 million in February due to repeated sabotage of a northern pipeline."  Poor Nouri, he's got the reverse Midas touch -- whee everything he touches turns to s**t.  Amir Taheri (Asharq Al-Awsat) points out:

    Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki may yet win enough seats to claim a chance to form another administration. However, even if he manages to hang on, the government he would head would be different.
    The coalition that has sustained him in power has simply melted away. Maliki’s core support—coming from one wing of the Al-Da’wah party—accounts for around 11 percent of the electorate. Thus without attracting other mainly Shi’a parties plus the Kurds and some Arab Sunni groups, Maliki would not have been able to keep his post.
    In fact, if Iraqi politicians are mature enough they should be able to construct a different coalition with someone other than Maliki as prime minister.
    Criticizing Maliki may be easy, bearing in mind his government’s failure to solve such mundane problems as the shortage of water and electricity in Baghdad, not to mention rampant corruption that, according to some Iraqis, has gone beyond the “normal” limits in so-called developing countries.
    The least one could say is that the Maliki government is guilty of underachievement.

    Iraq could have done much better. 

    Seven days from now, Iraq is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections. Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Though Iraqis in some parts of Anbar Province won't be allowed to vote and Iraqi refugees in Syria won't be allowed to vote, Aswat al-Iraq notes Majeed al-Sheikh, Iraq's Ambassador to Iran, declaring that Iraq will allow voting in 11 Iranian cities.  Michael Knights offers an analysis of the upcoming elections -- the after-process -- here. (No excerpt because what jumps out at me is a topic I'm tabling right now.  It has to do with the US government.)  Project on Middle East Democracy offers a roundup of opinions on the elections here. Lukman Faily is the Iraqi Ambassador to the US and he writes a laughable column for McClatchy on the elections.  We'll note this:

    The steady development of our oil industry is expected to generate $5 trillion over the next two decades. Iraq intends to use these revenues primarily to rebuild our transportation; improve our education and health care; and restore our electrical, water supply and sanitary systems. All these endeavors, as well as others, offer investment opportunities for American companies.

    Oh, is that what will happen?  Instead of going into the pockets of crooks in government?  Iraq's been pulling in billions throughout Nouri's second term and there's no potable water.  There is flooding.  Heavy rains can't be prevented -- and shouldn't be, Iraq needs water.  However, the flooding isn't just from the heavy rains.  When water's knee deep in Sadr City -- standing water -- it's because Nouri's refused to put any of the money from the oil into upgrading the sanitation system.  The water doesn't drain because the sewage system is inadequate.  It stands until it dries up and/or is absorbed by the ground.

    On the topic of elections . . .
  • I am seeking a translator/fixer to work with me in , during upcoming parliamentary elections. Good pay. Anyone interested?

  • Read more here:
    Borzou Daragahi was part of the Los Angeles Times' Iraq team in the '00s.  Today, he reports for the Financial Times of London.

    Nigeria's Leadership notes:

    An Iraqi Minister survived an assassination attempt on Thursday, police said in what was the second attempt this week in which a senior government official was targeted.
    A roadside bomb hit the convoy of Youth Minister, Jassem Mohammed near the area of Tuz Khurmato, some 170 kilometres North of Baghdad.

    Violence aimed at candidates has become an election staple in Iraq.  It's become so 'normal' that it doesn't even raise an eyebrow or, for that matter, condemnation publicly from the US State Dept or any other US governmental body.   Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

    "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki accused his rivals of seeking to place “obstacles” in the government’s counter-terrorism plans while Parliamentary Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, head of the Sunni-led Moutahidoun Coalition, accused Baghdad of allowing the unrest in the restive western province of Anbar to continue in order to disrupt the electoral process in Sunni-majority areas."

    al-Nujaifi is correct.  Nouri swore his assault on Anbar would be brief when it began in December and, back in January, was saying it would be wrapped up in weeks.  It's April and ongoing.

    As are his War Crimes.  He continues to shell the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.  NINA notes that four members of one family were left injured today when their homes was bombed. And NINA notes a second round of bombing left 6 civilians dead and nine injured "including two women and a child."  Could someone help me out on when Reidar Visser has used his 'keen legal mind' to call out these War Crimes which are collective punishment and are internationally recognized as War Crimes?

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 people were shot dead in Mosul "in two separate incidents," 4 police members were shot dead in Jehesh Village,  Joint Special Operations Command announced they killed 2 suspects in Ramadi, security forces say they killed 12 suspects in Albuabeid, security forces announced they killed 4 suspects in southern Falluja, a Rutba bombing left 3 police members injured, a Rutbah roadside bombing left 2 police members killed and three more injured, a battle in Shora left 1 rebel dead, a Tikrit car bombing left 1 person dead and five more injured, and a suicide car bomber "in the Nile district 10 km north of Hilla" took his own life and the lives of 5 other people (eight more injured).  IANS adds the death toll on the suicide car bombing increased to 10 people dead (in addition to the bomber) and twenty people injured.  World Bulletin reports, "A local Iraqi councilor and two bodyguards were killed in an attack in the northern Diyala province on Wednesday, a security source said."  All Iraq News reports 5 Sahwa were shot dead and five more were left injured in Salah-il-Din Province.

    Meanwhile a Shi'ite cleric has been kicked out of Bahrain.  Courtney Trenwith (Arabian Business) reports, "The Bahrain Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, Hussein Mirza Abdul Baqi Mohammed, known as Hussain Najati, was representing Ali Al Sistani, the highest ranking Shia marja in Iraq and the leader of the Islamic training centre Hawza in Najaf. A marja, similar to a grand ayatollah, has the authority to make legal decisions under Islamic law."  The forced exit is attracting attention.  Press TV notes Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian objected to the expulsion and stated, "The problem with some parties inside the Bahraini government is that they are not committed to effective political dialogue." The United Nations Human Rights issued the following today:

    Bahrain should stop persecution of Shi’a Muslims and return its citizenship to their spiritual leader

    GENEVA (24 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, today urged the Government of Bahrain to stop the harassment and persecution of the most senior religious leader of the Bahraini Shi’a Muslim community, who was reportedly forced to leave his country following threats from state security agents to arrest him and his son.
    “I have received information from reliable sources that on 23 April Hussain Mirza Abdelbaqi Najati was forced to leave his own country for Lebanon after being exposed to enormous pressure and harassment by the authorities,” the human rights expert said.
    Following Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior own statement, issued on its website on 23 April, it appears that the decision revoking Mr. Najati’s Bahraini citizenship and the orders to expel him from the country may have been made due to his position as a senior and influential religious authority among Shi’a believers, who make up the majority of the population.
    “I have expressed to the Government of Bahrain my grave concerns at what appears to be an act of religiously motivated discrimination which would seem to impose unjustified restrictions on Mr. Najati’s fundamental human rights, including his right to practice and profess peacefully his religious beliefs,” Mr. Bielefeldt stressed, warning that the case may have far-reaching implications for Shi’s Muslim community in the country.
    “Targeting the most senior and influential Shi’a religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shi’a Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.
    Mr. Najati is one of 31 individuals whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked on 7 November 2012 by the decision of the Ministry of Interior, a decision that rendered him stateless. In this regard the UN expert urged the Government to reverse its decision, which appears to be arbitrary, and to facilitate Mr. Najati’s return from Lebanon.
    “International law, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prohibits arbitrary deprivation of nationality, including on religious grounds,” the expert noted. “Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
    “I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion,” the Special Rapporteur said. “He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts.”
    Heiner Bielefeldt assumed his mandate on 1 August 2010. As Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, he is independent from any government, and acts in his individual capacity. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. The Special Rapporteur’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. Learn more, log on to:

    mohammed tawfeeq
    mushreq abbas