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Iraq snapshot - June 15, 2012


June 15, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Gina Chon wants it all to be about her, more Democratic Senators are bothered by Brett McGurk's nomination, the VA is approximately six weeks behind in paying veterans their GI Bill benefits checks (remember in 2009 when that was supposed to have been fixed), OPEC discusses oil prices, War Criminal Tony Blair is heckled again, and more...

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Iraq snapshot - June 15, 2012

The Common Ills

Friday, June 15, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  Gina Chon wants it all to be about her, more Democratic Senators are bothered by Brett McGurk's nomination, the VA is approximately six weeks behind in paying veterans their GI Bill benefits checks (remember in 2009 when that was supposed to have been fixed), OPEC discusses oil prices, War Criminal Tony Blair is heckled again, and more.
 
Today disgraced former Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon attempted to shove Jesus off the cross so she could climb up there herself.  Gawker posts her e-mail:
 
I've seen the ugliness in human beings in war zones and natural disasters but I've never seen it up close and personal in the comfort of the U.S. The venom of Washington politics makes Wall Street, which I covered for the last two years, look like a playground.
But underneath the half-truths and outright lies is a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married. In the process we formed a strong connection with Iraq, a place where we lost many friends.
I'm not trying to absolve myself of responsibility. People were hurt along the way and for that, I am truly sorry. I made stupid mistakes four years ago in Iraq while working for the Wall Street Journal and for that, I'm also sorry. I had to leave my job at a news organization I love and for that, I am heartbroken.
I want you to know, though, that while I worked in Iraq for the paper, Brett never gave me sensitive or classified information nor did he trade his knowledge for my affection. We were both dedicated professionals too committed to our jobs and had too much respect for each other to do anything like that. And as individuals, it's simply not who we are or how we approach our work. Nor did he need to. He was authorized to speak on occasion on background with journalists and did so with me, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other news outlets.
 
Gina Chon, you were not a 'dedicated professional.'  If you had been, you would have followed the ethical guidelines of journalism as well as the Dow Jones written ethical policy you signed.  If you were a 'dedicated professional,' you would still be working for the Wall St. Journal.  So stop lying.
 
Let's go through some of that.
 
I've seen the ugliness in human beings in war zones and natural disasters but I've never seen it up close and personal in the comfort of the U.S. The venom of Washington politics makes Wall Street, which I covered for the last two years, look like a playground.
 
How typical that all she could recall is the ugliness. Most people would embrace the humanity or see a mixture.  How telling that she chose to wallow in the ugliness.  The glass is always half full, chipped and unwashed for Gina.
 
And what venom?  Most newspapers and outlets have ignored your huge lapse in journalism ethics.  Jokes have yet to circulate about you -- but they are coming, they are.  You did wrong and you got caught. 
 
The fact that you were fired and you still can't admit that it was your fault goes to your lack of maturity and your failure to practice your profession ethically.
 
But underneath the half-truths and outright lies is a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married. In the process we formed a strong connection with Iraq, a place where we lost many friends.
 
The full truth is you were forbideen to sleep with your sources.  The full truth is you ignored the Dow Jones ethics policy.  The full truth is you violated it.  A lapse?  One tumble might have been a lapse.  But you didn't inform your editor of what happened and a 'lapse' turned into an affair.
 
I don't give a ___ whether you sucked him off to glory or you rode him to ecstatsy, Gina Chon.  I give a damn that you lied to everyone including the readers.
 
You do not sleep with government officials you are supposed to be covering.  You are obviously as stupid as you are unethical to even write such a whine.  The one thing you had going for you was that people respected the fact that you appeared to be taking your lumps without bitching and moaning in public.  You've blown that.  Now you're just another pathetic scandal, someone who gets caught and refuses to take accountability.
 
We have wall between press and state in the US.  Maybe that's news to you, Gina.  But unlike in China, Iran and other countries, we don't have state control of the media. When you're sent to cover Iraq for the Wall St. Journal, readers have a right to believe that you're doing it to the best of your abilities.  When you sleep with a US government official, that throws that belief out the window.  You violated the ethics, you showed your copy to McGurk -- which is what outraged everyone and why they suggested you resign immediately or they could fire you on the spot. 
 
You lost your right to whine about "loss" in the War Zone.  You know why?
 
Because you're the cheater.  Ask John Edwards, the cheater doesn't get to whine.  You cheated on your husband, Brett McGurk cheated on his wife.  While that's not our focus here when you try to play utlimate victim you better grasp that you and Brett can't pull it off.  You're two people who didn't keep your vows.  Public sympathy goes to the spouses you cheated on.  Try another trick, Gina.
 
I'm not trying to absolve myself of responsibility. People were hurt along the way and for that, I am truly sorry. I made stupid mistakes four years ago in Iraq while working for the Wall Street Journal and for that, I'm also sorry. I had to leave my job at a news organization I love and for that, I am heartbroken.
 
You know what, Judith Miller probably would love to still be at the New York Times.  Reporting is not a hobby, you don't dabble in it.  Most people and outlets do not say "Gina Chon reported . . ."  They say, "I heard on NPR" or "I saw an NBC Nightly News" or "I read in USA Today."  You disgraced the Dow Jones with your behavior.  You're going to be in the journalism text books now so you better start trying to come up with a better line of argument than 'My hot loins moistened at the thought of his throbbing member while he texted 'blue balls' to me.'   It was not a "stupid mistake," it was a gross violation of journalism ethics.  You're very lucky this came out in 2012.
 
Had it come in 2008, CJR would be crucifying you, The Nation would forget the name "Judith Miller" as they went to town on you, Greg Mitchell would do non-stop posts about you, speaking to everyone you've ever worked with.  But because Bush is out of office and your husband is Barack Obama's nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq, these outlets and others are down playing what happened.
 
It's amazing that, as you climb on the cross, and glorify yourself, you forget to apologize for what you did which was not "stupid mistakes."  You weren't a teenager, you weren't an intern.  You were a professional journalist working for a US newspaper with the highest circulation.  When this started, last week, I was reminded of James Brooks' Broadcast News.  Albert Brooks makes a crack.  And I thought, "What is it he says?  It's about  whether you'd tell a source you' loved them to get information --  it's funny, it's . . .  Oh." 
 
"Oh" because the butt of the joke is a woman and when that happens, we always have to wonder, is the joke fair or not? And so I decided not to include an excerpt of the whole would-you-sleep-with-your-source-to-get-a-story bit which ends with Albert Brooks saying, "Jennifer didn't know there was an alternative."  Ha-ha-ha-ha.  And now Gina Chon's name can be footnoted to that joke apparently.  Guess what?
 
Women have not come far enough.  When a Martha Raddatz (ABC News) has to talk on NPR (Tell Me More, February 22, 2011) about covering wars and having children -- not to talk about the juggle that so many of us who work and raise children can relate to but because suddenly the spin for the day is 'maybe women shouldn't be allowed in war zones,' we have not come far enough.
 
Women have not come far enough in our society.  We can't absorb your inability to follow the basic ethics, Gina.  Your actions betray women.  Not because you cheated on a 'sister,' but because you were such an idiot that you have taken the Iraq War, where women came to the forefront of reporting -- and had to pay for that already by having the scapegoat for the war itself be a woman (Judith Miller) -- and put that accomplishment at risk, put it at risk of turning all of the work into a dirty joke.  Women have not come far enough to afford your ethical lapse.
 
Jane Arraf, Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Deborah Haynes, Nancy A. Youssef, Sabrina Tavernise, Alyssa J. Rubin, Tina Susman, Alexandra Zavis, Ellen Knickmeyer, Erica Goode, Deborah Amos, Cara Buckley, Anna Badkhen, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Liz Sly, Alice Fordham,  Deborah Haynes, Sahar Issa and many other women have risked a great deal to report from Iraq.  Your name used to be on that list.  Check the archives, earlier this year we were still including you here on that list. 
 
You should be apologizing to women in the profession for you failure to follow the ethics policy.  One woman on the list in the first sentence of the above paragraph has been dogged by false rumors that the US military brass in Iraq fed her stories because she was sleeping with a general.  We've talked about that before here and how her male colleagues were the ones spreading the false rumors.  It wasn't a rival outlet, it was her own colleagues.  Jealous over what she was doing and feeling petty so they spread rumors about her.  She kept her head up, ignored the rumors and continued (and continues now) to do her work.
 
Gina Chon, that woman knows about being persecuted.  She knows about being turned into  a joke.  And she was innocent of the slander her male colleagues spread.  She didn't climb on the cross and play the victim so why you think anyone should give a damn that you wish you hadn't been caught violating the ethics of your profession is beyond me.
 
Now we haven't gone there here.  We've tried to make it about Brett McGurk.  I'd hoped to not write about you at any length.  But when the so-called media watchdogs refused to bark over the fact that you had a sexual relationship in Baghdad with a Bush official while covering Iraq, we had to wade in.  But there are several barriers I still haven't crossed.  For example, we haven't examined your part in the 2008 e-mails here or even quoted from your own 2008 e-mails.  In addition,  I was asked by a Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about your reporting from that period and I tried to play dumb and he pointed out that I was stalling and I said, "I'm just not comfrotable with that question."
 
Gina Chon, if you continue to try to play the world's utlimate victim, I can easily say, "Check out the story filed ___, paragraph three, specifically ___" and you and I both know what I mean.
 
Because of Barack the media watchdogs -- which apparently are partisan as the right has long charged -- aren't doing their job and you're very lucky for that.  But I can do their job for them.  And I will if you don't stop trying to play injured party.  You violated journalism ethics and just as a reporter who plagiarizes gets fired, you lost your job.  Quit trying to make it about love.  You weren't fired for falling in love.  You were fired for sleeping with your source, you were fired for sleeping with someone you let see your copy -- your former bosses say "vet," you say "seek feedback."
 
As Dolly Parton says in Straight Talk, "Get off the cross, honey, somebody else needs the wood."
 
Gina Chon's current husband is Brett McGurk who, at 39, has been nominated by Barack Obama to head the US mission in Iraq.  He would be the US Ambassador to Iraq if confirmed, over the largest US diplomatic mission in the world despite not speaking Arabic, despite lacking management experience, despite his established practice of sending e-mails to women he hasn't slept with about his "blue balls."  HR's going to have a lot of fun in Iraq if McGurk gets to supervise women.
 
McGurk's presence means Iraqi women are not welcome at the US Embassy.  That's going to mean a number of programs are cancelled.  You never heard about those programs because the press never cared enough to write about them.  I'm not sure they ever even reported on one of Brooke Darby's appeareances before Congress in the last eight months (Darby is with the State Dept).  But with the US government having put thugs in charge of Iraq -- to scare the people into submission while various economic programs were put in place -- so-called 'honor' killings are a real threat to Iraqi women.
 
 
 
Honor killings remained a serious problem. Legislation in force permits honor considerations to mitigate sentences.
According to the UNHCR in April, honor killings were prevalent in all parts of the country. For the first nine months of the year, the domestic NGO Human Rights Data Bank recorded 314 burn victims (125 instances of self-immolation and 189 cases of burning), compared with 234 burn victim during the same period in 2008.
 
 
Honor killings remained a serious problem throughout all parts of the country. The penal code of 1969 permits honor considerations to mitigate sentences.
Statistics published by the KRG Ministry of Interior in 2010 stated that there were 102 incidents of women burned in and around Erbil Province alone. Sixty-five percent of these cases were still under investigation during the year. Women who committed self-immolation had been previously victimized, but police investigated only a small number of women's burn cases. The KRG reported that during the year 76 women were killed or committed suicide, while 330 were burned or self-immolated, but a number of NGOs, including the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, stated that such estimates were low.
 
So visiting the US Embassy in Iraq -- for the small business training or any program or concern -- becomes a danger for Iraqi women who will be sneered at for ties to the Americans and now for a US Ambassador known to sleep with women in Iraq other than his own wife.  "You got a micro loan!  What did you do for it?"  Brett McGurk as US Ambassador to Iraq means a threat to Iraqi women -- especially in the KRG that he testified he would be visiting every week if named Ambassador.
 
It's really past time for Americans to be asking what would McGurk's appointment do to help Iraqi women?  The answer is nothing.  It would put them at risk if they visited the Embassy, it would most likely mean many Iraqi women would have nothing to do with the Embassy.
 
It's a real shame that the press won't protect Iraqi women.  It's a real shame that Gina Chon believes she's suffering when she has spent time in Iraq and should know the ultimate victims of the war were and remain Iraqi women.
 
In this community,  Trina's "No to Brett McGurk," Marica's "For the sake of Iraqi women, McGurk should step aside,Elaine's "McGurk needs to withdraw his name," Mike's "Brett McGurk needs to withdraw his name," Mike's "The embarrassing Erika Fry," Rebecca's "how brett mcgurk continues to remain the nominee," Kat's "What about the Iraqi women?," and Trina's "Diana West is wrong" have covered the McGurk nomination this week.  You'll notice the problem was McGurk as you read.  Gina Chon's ridiculous e-mail basically means a cry of "Unleash the hounds of hell!"  And she will have brought it on herself.
 
 
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and the same  administration that insists Brett McGurk is qualified for the post of Ambassador is attempting to drum Van Buren out of the State Dept for his whistleblowing book.  Peter's been covering the McGurk nomination for some time and has noted at length the various ethical violations McGurk has engaged in -- violations that the State Dept punishes others for but that McGurk gets waived through on.  In his most recent post, Van Buren notes that the bubbling under of the  'underground video' of McGurk getting a blow job on top of Saddam's palace by a woman who is not his first wife or his second wife (watch out, Gina, she may be the one who replaces you!).  He also notes more unethical behavior on the part of McGurk and Chon:
 
 
Meanwhile in sleaze land, the Washington Post reports that McGurk invited his then-mistress Chon to be a guest lecturer at a Harvard course he taught in 2009. Harvard students attending the class had no idea that their teacher was romantically involved with Chon, who spoke to them about her experience reporting getting inside info by sleeping with her sources in Iraq, according to a student who attended.
(Sigh) Needless to say, both the Stickman and Chon were married to others when they arranged to have Harvard pay for Chon to spend some quality time with Brett on the university's dime. Another classy move McGurk!
 
 
No, Gina, that's not "dedicated professionalism."  Try again, Gina.  And here's a little hint, when you trade sexual favors for benefits it's usually considered prostitution. 
 
Earlier this week, 6 GOP Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to US President Barack Obama asking him to withdraw the nomination of Brett McGurk.  Though the Committee vote on McGurk's nomination was scheduled for this coming Tuesday, Committee Chair John Kerry has indicated publicly that may not be happening.  In addition, the Washington Post has reported Senator Barbara Boxer has reservations about McGurk's nomination.  Today, Ted Barrett and Paul Courson (CNN) report that two more Democratic Senators on the Committee have questions.  Senator Ben Cardin is quoted stating, "The reports are very serious.  They should be explored before we take action."  Senator Bob Casey notes that "there have been a lot of questions raised and we should weigh them.  We've got a lot more work to do." 
 
Senator Bob Casey was acting Chair for McGurk's Committee hearing.  It was in that hearing, as we noted at Third that:
 

McGurk took credit for the surge.  The only aspect of the surge that was successful was what Gen David Petraeus implemented and US service members carried out.  That was not what McGurk and other civilians were tasked with.  Their part of the surge?  The military effort was supposed to create a space that the politicians would put to good use by passing legislation.  It didn't happen.  McGurk's part of the surge was a failure.
He revealed incredible ignorance about al Qaeda in Iraq and seemed unaware that, in 2011, then-CIA Director (now Secretary of Defense) Leon Panetta told Congress it amounted to less than 1,000 people or that in February of this year, the Director of National Intelligence declared that a significnat number (of that less than 1,000) had gone to Syria.
Though the press has reported for years about Nouri's refusal to bring Sahwa members into the process (give them jobs) and how he refuses to pay these security forces (also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons of Iraq"), McGurk told Congress that Nouri was paying them all and had given government jobs to approximately 70,000.  (For point of reference, in 2008, Gen David Petraues told Congress there were approximately 91,000 Sahwa.)
 
Links go to the three snapshot where we reported on the hearing.  Those issues and more go to his qualifications.  He is not the 'expert' the White House has made him out to be.
 
 
Wednesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on proposed legislation.  Senator Patty Murray is the Committee Chair, Senator Richar Burr  The Committee heard from two panels about proposed bills. The first panel was the VA's Curtis Coy. The second panel was IAVA's Tom Tarantino, Military Officers Association of America's Robert Norton and Student Veterans of America's Peter Meijer.  Wednesday's snapshot covered the burn pit aspect of the hearing and employment rights and  Kat covered Ranking Member Richard Burr's proposed bill.  We didn't have space for it in yesterday's snapshot but there was a great deal worth noting.  One thing we have to note is that veterans are still waiting on their GI Benefits.  Remember that?  Remember when that was supposedly solved?  The US has held mid-term elections since that scandal but the problem continues.  From the hearing:
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I need to move to the GI Bill real quick.  And I just want to paraphrase an article which was written [by Tony Burbeck] on June the 12th which was Tuesday in the Charlotte Observer.  It talks about local veterans who are now enrolled in a school that aren't getting their tuition and student housing money as promised from the GI Bill and it's threatening their ability to stay in school and to pay their rent. I won't name the veterans, five of them.  "They say that they're facing the same problems: thousands of dollars in government backed tuition money from their GI Bills plus a monthly basic housing allowance which hasn't come through since they started class May the 7th." Not even a book fee.  Haven't received anything.  "We got out of the United States Marine Corps April 22nd."  "Hall's certificate of eligibility says he's entitled to 100 percent of benefits covered under the GI Bill at an institution of higher education.  He's in school, but his tutition hasn't been paid. Hall says he might have to drop out of if the GI Bill tuition payment doesn't come through.  He added the Department of Veterans Affairs also told him they are six to eight weeks behind processing payments.  Hall is already at the end of the line with rent money that could be paid with the housing allowance.  He said he faced eviction if he didn't receive the money.  Some veterans have taken out student loans they didn't think they needed to.  Others are working all night to make up for those missing benefits.  'I have received zero of my VA benefits,' White said."  And Maxwell said "Nothing."  Does that disturb you?  Because everytime this Committee asks the question of the VA, "Are we late on payments? Is this thing working?," the answer we get is, "Yeah.  It works perfectly.  We're getting them out there."  These are guys who have been in school since May the 7th   They're veterans. It's a pretty reputable media outlet.  Feel fairly certain that this Marine didn't get it wrong, 100% eligable.  But there's no payment going to his school.  There's no housing stipend, there's no book fee that's being made.
 
Curtis Coy: Senator, we're always concerned with any of our veterans who are getting payments late.  We process educational claims in four different sites across the country.  Uh, right now for original claims, uh, Mr. Worley can-can correct me on the, uh, exact number perhaps but on original claims, we're looking at, uh, processing times of 30 to 35 days for supplemental claims, anywhere from 10 to 15 days --
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr:  So is the VA official who talked to this Marine and told the Marine that they were six to eight weeks behind processing payments, was that bogus?
 
Curtis Coy: No, sir.  I don't think it's bogus at all.  There are some that take longer than others.  Uh, what I gave you was an average time, not the range of times.  We've had ranges much higher than that, as you might imagine.  We, uh, track these, uh, claims on a daily basis and so, uh, we take all of those kinds of issues --
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr: What do -- what do the Marines do, Mr. Coy? The school's working with them.  They're keeping them in.  He may be in school but he might be evicted from his place on a beneft that he -- that he's earned.  He deserves.  What are we -- what are we going to do?  I don't think -- And if I thought I was talking about an isolated case, I wouldn't  press this.  I don't think I am.
 
 
Robert Worely II: Ranking Member Burr, I would only say that when these -- when these come to our attention, uh, we find out what happened and we correct them as quickly as possible. 
 
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I'll make sure when you leave you've got this news article.
 
 
Curtis Coy and Worely are with the VA (Worely is the Director of Education Service).  There is no excuse for this and there has never been an excuse.  Let's drop back to the October 19, 2009 snapshot for an exchange during the October 18, 2009 House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing.
 
 
US House Rep Harry Teague: You know we've had a problem with some contradictory information coming out.  You know when the checks didn't go out the first of the month, well then we issued the letter that they would be cut on Friday the second. And then there was also some letters sent out that if, like in places like New Mexico, it's 320 miles to the only hospital and the only facility in the state that they would be going to some of the larger universities around and handing the checks out.  That didn't happen.  At the same time, they got a website up where they could go to but we didn't get that information to people.  So I was just wondering if we're streamlining our communications within our office there so that we don't continually jerk the veterans around and have some of them misinformed.
 
Keith Wilson: I understand your concerns, Congressman. And we-we have, I believe, we have a better process in place to make sure that we are communicating more effectively on that. The issues that we are dealing with was trying to get -- make sure we had something out the gate and-and informed our student population prior to 10-1 [October 1st] -- around the 10-1 time frame. The 10-1 was important because most folks were at that point where they were due their first housing allowance payments. .We thought it was important to get something up as soon as possible. We were dealing -- and continued to deal -- at the time of that press release, with some technical issues concerning how we get to the other locations beyond our 57 regional offices. We very early on wanted a desire to spread this out as much as possible. We felt that the most effective way of doing this was leveraging technology.  Taking into account that we've got technology students at thousands of locations across the country. We felt the most effective way of uh getting those folk that weren't within distance of a regional office was to allow technology and so that was the driver for our decision on the follow up --
 
US House Rep Harry Teague: Yes and I agree with that and I think that the webpage is working good. It's just that during that week prior to that, when I was at New Mexico State University, they were expecting someone to be there with the checks and then, on Friday when there's not, that's when we find out about the webpage.
 
Keith Wilson: I understand.
 
The same problems continue nearly three years later.  Can you pay the benefit or not?  Holding onto the money is not payment.  Veterans shouldn't have to take out short term loans and risk eviction because the VA still can't get its act together.  There is no excuse for this.  Throughout fall 2009 and early 2010, when the press was reporting on this problem, in one hearing after another in the House and Senate the Veterans Affairs Committee were assured by VA officials -- including Secretary Eric Shinseki -- that the problems had been addressed and were now in the past and the VA needed no additional resources.  So why is this again a problem nearly three years later?
 
Meanwhile Iraq is dependent upon oil.  Despite years of cries from Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi for Iraq to diversify its economy, Iraq remains solely dependent upon oil.  It has been pumping out a large amount at a time when OPEC is concerned with a "glut" on the world market.  Abdalla Salem el-Badri is in charge of OPEC (not some Iraqi despite bad press reporting this week). Secretary General el-Badri's spoke at the OPEC seminar in Vienna Wednesday.  We'll note the speech's main point (use the link to read in full):
 
Fossil fuels - which currently account for 87% of the world's energy supply - will still contribute 82% by 2035. Oil will retain the largest share for most of the period to 2035, although its overall share falls from 34% to 28%. It will remain central to growth in many areas of the global economy, especially the transportation sector. Coal's share remains similar to today, at around 29%, whereas gas increases from 23% to 25%.
In terms of non-fossil fuels, renewable energy grows fast. But as it starts from a low base, its share will still be only 3% by 2035. Hydropower will increase only a little - to 3% by 2035. Nuclear power will also witness some expansion, although prospects have been affected by events in Fukushima. It is seen as having only a 6% share in 2035.
[. . .]
In terms of resources, there are more than enough to meet expected demand growth.
And overall, fossil fuels will continue to supply over 80% of our energy needs by 2035, with oil the energy type with the largest share for most of this period.
Finally, given the long-term nature of our industry and the need for clarity and predictability - not only for oil, but energy in general - I would like to leave you with three appropriate words: 'stability, stability, stability'.
Stability for investments and expansion to flourish;
Stability for economies around the world to grow;
And stability for producers that allows them a fair return from the exploitation of their exhaustible natural resources.
Stability is the key to a sustainable global energy future for us all.
 
 
Today Guy Chazan (Financial Times of London) reports, "Iran and Iraq are forming a strenghtening alliance inside Opec, raising concerns among moderate Arab Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia and increasing the potential for discord in the oil producers' group."  El-Badri is Secretary-General through the end of this year.  There are four people currently angling for the job.  Thamir Ghadhban (close ties to Nouri), Iran's pushing for one of their former Ministers of Oil, Gholamhossein Nozari, Equador's putting up Minister of Oil Wilson Pastor-Morris and Saudi Arabia is backing their OPEC Governor Majid al-Munif.  The choice will have a global impact and, in fact, what's going on right now has a global impact.  Amena Bakr and Peg Mackey (Reuters) observe, "Oil prices have dropped from a $128 peak for Brent crude in March to $97, in part because the economic outlook has darkened but also because of increased Saudi output that in April set a 30-year high of 10.1 million barrels a day."   AFP reports, "OPEC members have been divided over how to respond to plunging prices and uncertainties over global energy demand, with kingpin Saudi Arabia recently ramping up production while hawks Venequela and Iran have called for cuts so as to boost prices.  On Thursday, most memebers agreed on an average price of at least $100 per barrel, with Angolan Oil Minister Jose Botelho de Vasconcelos describing this as 'the comfortable level'."   Kay Johnson (AP) notes, "For now, Iraq is backing Iran's push for OPEC to set lower production limits and keep prices high, but Baghdad's own ambitious plans for expansion could cause an overall production growth that might drive down prices."  April Yee (The National) adds:
 
Already this year Iraq has increased its exports by a fifth to pump 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), enough to help offset the decrease in Iranian supplies caused by sanctions - alongside Saudi Arabia and a recovering Libya.
Iraq's target is to add another 400,000 bpd by next year, all in pursuit of its goal of 10 million bpd in total pumping capacity in 2017- equal to the current production of Saudi Arabia, Opec's top producer.
Although analysts say that goal is not realistic, they do see Iraq overtaking Iran, Opec's second-biggest producer, as soon as next month.
 
 
, ""
 
Iraq and Iran are pushing Iraq
 
Meanwhile the Tehran Times reports, "Iranian Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami has said that the ministry is ready to provide Iraq with services in the fields of social welfare, technical and vocational trainings, rehabilitation and job creation."
 
 
In Iraq, the violence continues.  Al Rafidayn carries AFP's report on how, despite Wednesday's attacks which left at least 93 dead "and 312 people wounded," Shi'ites continued their pilgrims Thursday.   Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes this took place as 14 people were killed yesterday and another 21 injured.  Today Alsumaria notes 2 corpses discovered in Tikrit (shot in the chest and head), a Baghdad home invasion resulted in 5 family members being shot dead, and 2 Baquba bombings left three Iraqi soldiers injured  as well as one bystander.
 
 
Alsumaria reports that the Sadr bloc states the move for a no-confidence vote is still on.  The way it would work now is summoning Nouri before the Parliament for questioning (which they have the Constitutional power to do) and then, after questioning, making a motion for a vote.  This would cut the treacherous Jalal Talabani out of the picture and he'd be resigned to his ceremonial, do-nothing post that he does nothing in.
 
Desperate to appear to have some strength in a country where perceptions of strength matter, Al Rafidayn reports Jalal is now saying he'll call a national conference to address the political crisis that started as 2010 ended when Nouri ignored the Erbil Agreement.  That US-brokered contract ended the 8 month political stalemate which followed the March 2010 elections.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya but the Little Saddam wouldn't step down.  Little Saddam wanted a second term.  Little Saddam was backed by Tehran and DC so his public tantrum was rewarded.  The US got the political blocs to go along with Nouri having a second term by promising various concessions would be made (such as, in his second term, Nouri will be bound by the Constitution, specifically Article 140 which he refused to follow in his first term).  All political blocs signed off on this contract, Nouri signed off as well (November 2010), the US government swore it was a binding agreement that would be honored.  The next day, Parliament held a session finally -- the first real one since the elections.  They elected a Speaker of Parliament and Jalal named Nouri prime minister-designate.  Nouri immediately refused to implement the creation of an independent national security commission headed by Allawi.  Allawi and the bulk of Iraqiya walked out.  The American officials talked them back into the session, swearing this was temporary, the Erbil Agreement would be honored.

They lied.

In December Nouri went from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  And Nouri made clear that the Erbil Agreement wasn't a priority.  By summer 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr are calling for the agreement to be implemented.  This is the ongoing political crisis.
 
 
 
 
 

Since the government was formed at the end of 2010, all efforts of power sharing among Prime Minister Maliki and the main Sunni political bloc, Iraqiya, the Kurds, and even some of his Shiite partners has faltered. As a result, the three security ministries that were supposed to be shared among all of the political blocs remain under the prime minister's control.

The cabinet as it functions now allows the prime minister to rule by decree. Those bylaws were supposed to be revised. That has never happened. An oil law was also supposed to be passed, and that hasn't happened. As a result, mistrust has grown on all sides.

Since late April, the primary Sunni bloc--Iraqiya--the main Kurdish bloc, and Sadr's Shiite lawmakers have all come out in favor of a vote of no confidence against Maliki. This effort climaxed last weekend when the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, was asked to call for a vote of no confidence in the parliament. But Talabani, who is a Kurd but has very close ties with Maliki, at the end of the day said that there were not enough signatures to call for such a vote. So now Maliki's main competitors--the Iraqiya block, the Sadrists and the Kurds--are trying to gain more signatures to force Talabani to call a vote of no confidence. But if not, they are saying they're still going to call Maliki to the parliament--which technically they can do--for hearings, for questioning, and then after that, they want to call for a vote for no confidence. All of that shows the trust has broken down in Iraqi politics.

 
 
Iraq was destroyed in the illegal war Bully Boy Bush and Tony Blair conspired to launch with multiple lies.  While Bush generally attempts a low profile, Tony's so desperate for cash, he keeps going out in public and the results, as he found out yesterday in Hong Kong, are not good.  Lewis Smith (Independent) reports Tom Grundy attempted to do a citizen's arrest of the man whose lies killed millions, making it "the third occassion in as many weeks in which demonstrators have heckled the former prime minister."  Press TV notes:


Antiwar protesters have repeatedly called for the trial of Blair for war crimes. Last month, a group of demonstrators interrupted a commencement speech by Blair at Colby College in Maine, the US, shouting "warmonger" and "war criminal".
One week later, while Blair was giving evidence at an inquiry into his links with the British media, another protester managed to enter the courtroom and demanded Blair's arrest for war crimes.
In November last, a symbolic tribunal in Malaysia found Blair and former US President George W Bush guilty for committing "crimes against peace" when they invaded Iraq. 


The War Criminal was hoping to funnel more dough into the shell game that is the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.  Interestingly, though the 'Foundation' highlights his speech in Hong Kong, it fails to note Grundy.  For those less familiar with Tony Blair's faith or 'faith,'  Nick Cohen (Guardian of London) described it back in 2002:


During their stay at the Maroma Hotel, a pricey retreat on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Cherie Booth/Blair took her husband by the hand and led him along the beach to a 'Temazcal', a steam bath enclosed in a brick pyramid. It was dusk and they had stripped down to their swimming costumes. Inside, they met Nancy Aguilar, a new-age therapist. She told them that the pyramid was a womb in which they would be reborn. The Blairs became one with 'Mother Earth'. They saw the shapes of phantom animals in the steam and experienced 'inner-feelings and visions'. As they smeared each other with melon, papaya and mud from the jungle, they confronted their fears and screamed. The joyous agonies of 'rebirth' were upon them. The ceremony over, the Prime Minister and First Lady waded into the sea and cleaned themselves up as best they could.

Time Out Hong Kong interviews Grundy hereThe Daily Mail has video of the attempted arrest yesterday.  As does Tom Grundy at his website Global Citizen where he explains:

"This evening, I attempted a citizen's arrest upon Tony Blair, who was speaking at Hong Kong University. I did this in the hope of renewing debate around the solid war crimes case against him, and in order that the campaign to conduct citizen's arrests against Blair continues whenever and wherever he goes. The action was legal under cap. 221 of the Laws of Hong Kong, section 101(2) which allows for citizen's arrest upon suspicion of serious crimes. He mis-led the British public over the 2003 Iraq invasion and caused the deaths of at least 100,000 people. I believe it to be abhorrent that HKU is sponsoring a talk about faith hosted by a man who set religious tolerance back decades."
Blair admitted in 2009 that he would have gone to war regardless of Iraq's alleged WMDs -- international law does not allow a war of aggression in the name of regime change. He stated in 2002 that Iraq's production of WMDs was 'beyond doubt' and thus misled the British people. The use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs may constitute 'aggression' in that they are indiscriminate and cause large civilian causalities.


While Phony Tony tried to use his 'faith' foundation to enrich his pockets and his trashy image, Iraqi Christians face real threats as a result of the illegal war.  Ann Rodgers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) reports that an Atlanta conference of Catholic Bishops heard a plea yesterday on behalf of Iraqi Christians:


"As leaders of the church in the United States, you bear a special responsibility toward the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003 your country led the war that brought some terrible consequences," said Bishop Schlemon Warduni, an auxiliary bishop of Babylon of the Chaldeans. His nation has gone from one where Christians and Muslims were friends to one where churches are bombed and clergy kidnapped, tortured and killed, he said.
"No more war, no more death, no more explosions, no more injustice," he told the bishops, who were gathered in Atlanta for their semiannual meeting.
Catholic News Service provides Bishop Shlemon Warduni's plea in full:
 
"As leaders of the church in the United States," he told the bishops, "you bear a special responsibility toward the people and Christians of Iraq. In 2003, your government led the war that brought some terrible consequences. The U.S. government can and must do all it can to encourage tolerance and respect in Iraq, to help Iraq strengthen the rule of law and to provide assistance that helps create jobs for Iraqis, especially those on the margins.

"Many times we ask, 'Where can we find justice and peace?' Our Lord says, "I give you my peace, but not like the world gives." The peace of Jesus is love. This love guides us to unity, because love works miracles, and builds justice and peace. This can be realized when all the church works together in one heart and one thought," the bishop said.

"We beg you to do something for us," he continued. "We want only peace, security and freedom. You can tell everybody Iraq was very rich, but now is very poor, because of the war and much discrimination. We want to cry out to you: we want peace, justice, stability, freedom of religion. No more war, no more death, no more explosions, no more injustice. Please help us talk to everybody. Push the cause of peace.


:: Article nr. 88890 sent on 17-jun-2012 00:34 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=88890

Link: thecommonills.blogspot.it/2012/06/iraq-snapshot_15.html



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