The American founding notion of “inalienable rights” stems from the Hebrew concept of a covenant: a grant of rights implies a Grantor, and an irreversible grant implies a God who limits his own sovereignty in covenant with mankind. From the vantage point of Islam, the idea that God might limit his own powers by making an eternal covenant with human beings is unthinkable, for Allah is absolutely transcendent, and unconditionally omnipotent. From a Hebrew, and later Christian, standpoint, the powers of the earthly sovereign are limited by God’s law which irreversibly grants rights to every human being. Islam, unable to make sense of such self-limitation by the divine sovereign, has never produced a temporal political system subject to constitutional limitations.
Human Rights Watch: Iraq becoming ‘police state’
Iraq Risks Becoming a Police State, Again: Human Rights Watch
Corruption in Iraq: ‘Your son is being tortured. He will die if you don’t pay’
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports from Baghdad where families of innocent detainees face extortion from corrupt officials
Iraq Turns Justice Into a Show, and Terror Confessions a Script
BAGHDAD — The cameras were rolling and the reporters were ready inside the auditorium, so the Iraqi police officer gave the signal: Bring in the prisoners. In they shuffled, 21 men accused of terrorism and murder, hands shackled, eyes tracing the floor. This was no day in court. Today, they were lined up to meet the press.
“Lift up your faces,” a police officer ordered, as photographers swarmed.
Over the objections of Western diplomats and human rights workers, Iraq’s security forces are increasingly taking to the airwaves with dramatic demonstrations of how they are cracking down on terrorism, using detainees — mostly Sunni men — as backdrops for speeches and broadcasting confessions on state-run television.
To Iraqi officials, the prisoner displays are a kind of victory lap, providing a sharp rebuttal to accusations that the police and the army are failing to stifle a still-deadly insurgency.
But to many Westerners, the rituals are inflammatory and even illegal, symptoms of a politically tainted justice system that still relies on confessions, many coerced, as much as physical evidence despite millions in American aid and legal training programs.
Unlike those who served in Iraq and lost their lives or limbs, there are no consequences for George Bush and the neo-CONs who foisted an unnecessary war on our country. Unlike children who lost moms and dads, there are no consequences for Chickenhawk Dick Cheney and the neo-CONs who foisted an unnecessary war on this country. Unlike families and communities who lost loved ones in a senseless war in Iraq, there are no consequences for Paul Wolfowitz and his neo-CONs who foisted an unnecessary war on my country.
George Bush, never known for his intellectual prowess, made the decision to invade Iraq through gut instinct, rather than objective, rational analysis. He made an egregious mistake — a colossal blunder — that stamped him irrevocably as the worst president in US history. The invasion’s outcome, the absence of peace, democracy, the incessant al-Queda and sectarian violence, proves that fact.
Let me say for the umpteenth time, George W. is not a stupid man. The IQ of his gut, however, is open to debate. In Texas, his gut led him to believe the death penalty has a deterrent effect, even though he acknowledged there was no evidence to support his gut’s feeling. When his gut, or something, causes him to announce that he does not believe in global warming — as though it were a theological proposition — we once again find his gut ruling that evidence is irrelevant. In my opinion, Bush’s gut should not be entrusted with making peace in the Middle East.
Rational actors who possess some nebulous notion of serving the common good, democracy, are absent from the Muslim consciousness. In fact, Muslims are conditioned by their culture to embrace autocrats, for “the preconditions for democracy do not exist in Arab society…”.
Prime Minister Maliki and President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, are American stooges steeped in sectarianism who seek singluar parochial advantage.
During the controversy over the Arizona immigration law in 2010, there was a story in the Washington Post about Iraq. The number of comments about the war were 13; there were thousands of comments about illegal immigrants. I was shocked.
The Iranians Certainly Think They’ve Won in Iraq
Rising Strife Threatens Tenuous Iraqi Stability
BAGHDAD — Violence and political instability have escalated across Iraq since the withdrawal of American forces, as political and sectarian factions have fought for power and influence in a struggle that, within weeks, has threatened to undo the stability that allowed the pullout in the first place.
…“Before the United States withdrew, our politicians were saying that we are a government of national unity, and that we are a democracy, and that is all they talked about,” said Dr. Basam Edis, 45, a physician from the northern city of Mosul. “Now people are wondering if militias will take control of the cities again. It is all happening because our politicians are now fighting for a bigger piece of the pie.”
He added, “Our politicians have become vampires who do not care about us.”
Iraq: what next for a corrupt and divided country?
The democratic nation state that was supposed to rise from the ruins of tyranny appears to be disintegrating
The Guardian, Sunday 15 January 2012
Post-Saddam Iraq has rarely been more brittle. The democratic nation state that was supposed to rise from the ruins of tyranny is steadily disintegrating. Less than one month after the US withdrawal, Iraq is showing no sign of uniting behind a Washington-backed central government. More alarmingly, Baghdad doesn’t seem to care much.
The move by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in mid-December against the country’s Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, was always going to be provocative. Maliki, who in a recent interview said his primary identity was Shia, insists Hashemi was directing hit squads. He said he had known about the vice-president’s “terror activities” for years, but had waited for the right time to go after him. The moment he chose could not have been more potent – the US army had hardly shut the gate into Kuwait behind them. The remaining strongman in town was marking his patch. The rest of Iraq would have to live with it.
Maliki would surely have expected a backlash. He has never been popular with the country’s disenfranchised Sunnis and has had a workable, though strained, relationship with the increasingly disengaged Kurds. Yet he doesn’t seem to have factored in the strength of the resentment – and its capacity to seriously undermine the power base he seems intent on building for himself.
Iraq now finds itself at a juncture that in many ways is more dangerous and instructive than the darkest days of 2006, when all remnants of state control crumbled as sectarian war took hold. Back then there was no expectation the state could lead Iraq to a better place. Six years on, and with violence much lower, Iraqis have even less faith in the state, despite it being much better placed – at face value – to provide for its citizens.
Iraq appears to have three paths from here. The first is partition: separate states for Shias, Sunnis and Kurds who would govern themselves and consign Iraq to a historical dustbin. This option would benefit the Kurds, who have been busy building a state in all but name for the past nine years, and who stand to reap an enormous bounty from the oil reserves under their feet. It may also be attractive to the Sunnis, who don’t have oil in their heartland and fear they don’t have a hope under a Shia majority government anyway.
The second option is a form of federalism, where regions have more autonomy in their own affairs and less of an allegiance to Baghdad. The Sunni provinces of Anbar and Diyyala have made steps in this direction, but Maliki has vowed to prevent any such move taking hold.
And then there’s the fallback, “do nothing” option (one that Iraq seems to adopt almost by default these days): this means muddling along from one crisis to the next, with institutions remaining largely useless and citizens knowing that the state will rarely be behind them. Underlying this option – the most likely of the three – is a gradual slide into chaos. There are, it seems, too many trigger points inside Iraq and around the region these days to avoid it.
An Iraqi police officer at a mosque in Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces raid homes of Sunni politicians
By Dan Morse, Published: January 20
BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces raided the homes of two Sunni politicians north of Baghdad on Friday, according to security officials, heightening fears among Sunni leaders that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is targeting them along sectarian lines.
The raids, which followed the arrest two days earlier of a Sunni official in Baghdad, came against the backdrop of a broader investigation of the country’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi. All the cases involve allegations of terrorism, officials said.
“Why don’t we hear about any kind of arrests or charges presented against members of the Shiite militia?” Salim al-Jubouri, the Sunni head of the Iraqi parliament’s Human Rights Committee, asked Friday.
Jubouri said more than 20 members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group, have been arrested on terrorism charges in the past two months. He said the suspects are innocent.
Echoing assertions this week by former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, Jubouri said suspects are being tortured. “There are a lot of inhumane ways that they are trying to take confessions,” he said.
A spokesman for Maliki said investigations are not conducted on a sectarian basis.
“Arrest warrants are issued by the judiciary to bring to justice people believed to have done criminal acts,” Ali Hadi al-Moussawi said, adding that security forces “should not consider the criminals’ religious backgrounds when they want to bring them to justice.”
In the Hashimi case, three of the vice president’s bodyguards have been shown on television confessing to carrying out bombings and assassinations at his request. The vice president, who has taken refuge in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq’s north, has said the charges against him are bogus and politically motivated. Maliki, meanwhile, has said the matter is being handled by judicial authorities and urged Hashimi to return to Baghdad to face the charges.
On Friday morning, officials said, the security forces raided the home of Talal al-Jubouri, a Diyala province deputy governor, who was reported to be on business in Jordan and was not arrested. The forces also raided the home of Ghadban al-Khazraji, another deputy governor.
Khazraji and several bodyguards were taken into custody, according to Hafid al-Jubouri, the province’s deputy governor for security.He said the security agents also confiscated laptop computers.
On Wednesday, forces in Baghdad arrested Riyad al-Adad, vice president of the Baghdad provincial council, on his way to work, officials said.
All three Sunni politicians — Adad and the two in Diyala — are members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, Salim al-Jubouri said.
He said security forces are using the Hashimi case as an excuse to arrest other Sunni leaders.
Jubouri said the case against the two Diyala officials makes no sense. He said that Khazraji, for instance, is “a very quiet person, and according to my knowledge, he has nothing to do with any” terrorist activities.
He added that nine other politicians in Diyala, all Sunnis, are facing arrest warrants and have fled to the province of Sulaymaniyah.
A new mirage in the Iraqi desert
By Kimberly Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, Published: December 11
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s meeting Monday with President Obama, their first in-person encounter since October 2009, is supposed to be an occasion to declare the successful end of the war in Iraq and the beginning of a “normal” relationship between two friendly states. Maliki and Obama are likely to reaffirm their commitments to non-military components of the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement — such as trade, education and investment — and discuss the limited ways in which the United States will continue to assist Iraqi forces after 2011.
This vision of relations will seem palatable to Americans and Iraqis who want to believe that all will be well after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But the image is a mirage. It rests on inaccurate portrayals of the situation in Iraq and Maliki’s policies. It also lacks a strategy to secure vital U.S. interests in the region.
Even after the last U.S. soldier departs, America’s core interests in Iraq include:
Ensuring that Iraq contributes to the security of the Middle East, rather than undermining it through state collapse, civil war or the establishment of a sectarian dictatorship;
Ensuring that terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda or backed by Iran cannot establish sanctuaries;
Promoting an Iraq that abides by its international responsibilities;
Containing Iranian influences that are harmful to U.S. interests in Iraq and the region; and
Signaling U.S. commitment to the region at a pivotal moment in history.
Securing these and other U.S. interests requires two basic conditions: First, Iraq must be able to control, police and defend its territory, airspace and waters. Second, Iraq must preserve and solidify the multi-ethnic and cross-sectarian political accommodation that was established in 2008 and 2009 but that has been eroding since the formation of the current government.
Neither condition is likely to be met in the coming years.
Despite enthusiastic rhetoric from Maliki and Defense Secretay Leon Panetta, Iraq is not able to defend its territory or airspace. Iraq has no military aircraft able to maintain its air sovereignty and will not for several years, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, deputy commander of U.S. forces there, explained in a press conference on Dec. 7. He said that challenges facing Iraq include “external security threats, Iranian-backed militias, al-Qaeda, other violent extremist groups” and that “Iraqis must continue to put constant pressure on those groups.” He said persistent “security gaps” include “their air sovereignty, their air defense capability, the ability to protect the two oil platforms, and then the ability to do combined arms operations for an external defense, synchronizing their infantry with their armor, with their artillery, with their engineers.”
Iraqi security forces are unable to maintain their capabilities and equipment, much less meet new challenges. The only remaining U.S. training missions are for Iraqi police, and there are no agreements for training or supporting the military beyond year’s end. “How they deal with that gap” in defense capabilities, Helmick noted, “is really up to them.”
Even more troubling than the security weaknesses is the erosion of the fragile political settlement. Maliki has pursued a sectarian agenda focused on consolidating power and monopolizing control of the state and security forces under his Dawa Party. He wrote on this page last Monday: “The Baath Party, which is prohibited by the constitution, believes in coups and conspiracies; indeed, these have been its modus operandi since the party’s inception. The Baathists seek to destroy Iraq’s democratic process. Hundreds of suspected Baathists recently were arrested.. . .I refute characterizations that the detentions were a sectarian action based on political motives.”
But it is difficult to square the descriptions of good security conditions in Iraq, as cited by U.S. military and administration officials and by Maliki, with the idea that mass arrests were necessary to prevent an imminent Sunni coup d’etat. It is even harder to see how that alleged threat required Maliki to remove officials from the Education Ministry and fire or replace several general officers of known integrity, patriotism and national loyalty.
The reality is that Maliki has just announced a policy of prosecuting — in some cases persecuting — selected former members of the Baath Party (including many protected from such actions by the de-Baathification law because they never held high positions) and other political opponents in a way certain to fan the smoldering embers of sectarian fear. Maliki is unwinding the multi-ethnic, cross-sectarian Iraqi political settlement.
Obama administration policy presumes that Maliki generally shares U.S. interests and will pursue them even without significant American assistance. Were that true, Maliki would aggressively protect American civilian and diplomatic personnel who have been threatened by the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and recently targeted to such a degree that the embassy has restricted their travel. He would direct security forces to act against Iranian-sponsored militias in Iraq. Rather than abstaining, he would have supported the Arab League’s vote to suspend Syrian membership. He would see to it that Ali Mussa Daqduq, the Lebanese Hezbollah operative responsible for the execution of American soldiers in Karbala in 2007, is transferred to U.S. custody or tried in Iraq and punished for his crimes. He would appoint a permanent minister of defense and an interior minister acceptable to Parliament rather than concentrating those powers in his office.
But Maliki has done none of those things.
Sunni-backed Allawi says Maliki risks splitting Iraq
By Dan Morse, Published: January 18
BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pushing to form a Shiite-controlled government that risks tearing the country apart unless he changes course or is removed from office, a Sunni-backed politician said at a news conference Wednesday.
Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite and former prime minister of Iraq, also asserted that security forces under Maliki’s control are “arresting, torturing and terrifying” political opponents and innocent citizens.
Allawi said the country deserved better after three decades of dictatorship and wars.
“This is not the state that we fought for,” he said.
A spokesman for Maliki declined to comment but has said in the past that other politicians, not Maliki, are stoking sectarian tensions. Ali Hadi al-Moussawi added that political colleagues of Allawi who are boycotting their government positions are disrupting needed services. For that reason, he said, the ministers of agencies participating in the boycott have been suspended.
“We appointed acting ministers and gave the boycotting ministers a vacation,” Moussawi said.
Allawi’s statement Wednesday is the latest sign that a political crisis gripping Iraq just weeks after the departure of U.S. Troops is far from resolved. Analysts said that the prime minister has pushed his political rivals so hard in recent weeks that there may be no going back for him.
“It’s about assuring long-term dominance,” said Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq expert at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “It’s almost like Maliki is playing a game of chicken, except this time he’s pushed all the way down on the accelerator and thrown out the steering wheel.”
Kenneth Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said, “It is going to be very hard to get this toothpaste back in the tube.”
Pollack and others worry that the sectarian tensions among the country’s lawmakers are creating a dangerous environment. Insurgents have staged a rash of deadly bombings recently in what observers say is probably a campaign to draw Shiite and Sunni militias into the fray.
An aide to Maliki, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly, said that Allawi was simply repeating criticisms he has made before. Maliki has said in speeches lately that he is committed to working with all parties.
At the news conference, Allawi, flanked by Sunni leaders, said Maliki is provoking individual provinces to seek more autonomy. He said he fears that the country will break apart and is not optimistic that the differences between his coalition and Maliki can be mended through negotiations.
One of three things needs to happen, he added: Maliki should reverse course and agree to run the government under a power-sharing arrangement that divides key positions among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds; the country should hold new elections, which could produce a new prime minister; or Maliki should be replaced.
“Iraq is standing today at a crossroads,” he said. “We need a tolerant statesman who can go beyond personal grudges, like Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.”
Promise of Iraq’s economy remains unfulfilled
By Dan Morse, Published: January 8
BAGHDAD — When the United States invaded Iraq, it did so thinking that it could turn the country into an economic dynamo fueled on oil reserves that are among the largest in the world. “Iraq is open for business,” L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq at the time, said in 2003.
But the fighting never really stopped, and the U.S. vision was never really realized. Now, with American troops gone, the question is: What can Iraq build on its own? So far — with the nation’s leaders locked in a political crisis and insurgents launching spectacular attacks — the signs are not good.
A view of these obstacles, playing out on a smaller scale, can be found behind 10-foot blast walls on the floor of the city’s tiny stock exchange. Investor Saad Jaleel began the year hopeful, buying $1,600 worth of shares in the Iraqi Middle East Investment Bank. But by the third day of trading, watching the market creep down, he stopped.
“People are just waiting and worried, because of the political and security situation,” said Jaleel, 52, a former stationery store owner.
The stock exchange, with only 45 actively traded companies, is hampered by Iraq’s dysfunctional business climate, which, analysts say, lacks adequate laws to govern investments, taxation and property issues. Three massive generators are parked outside the building, keeping the lights running. Just showing up is an act of courage.
Two blocks away are the charred remains and rubble from a Dec. 22 car bombing, which occurred outside a government anti-corruption agency and killed more than a dozen people.
But Jaleel remains bullish about his country and said he will get back to trading this week. “Within three years,” he said, “we will have total change.”
Tough business climate
Iraq sits on an estimated 143 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, according to the World Bank, which recently projected that growing oil exports will boost the country’s gross domestic product by 12 percent this year, among the fastest rates in the world.
But part of that growth reflects dramatic business activity in the country’s semiautonomous Kurdish region. And, more broadly, the challenge for Iraq is that the oil revenue passes through the government, which traditionally hasn’t spent the money well or done enough to diversify the economy, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
Iraq ranks 159 out of 227 countries in per-capita income, according to U.S. government statistics. The World Bank ranks Iraq 164 out of 183 countries in terms of ease of doing business, down five spots from the year before. Corruption rankings, according to Transparency International, are worse.
But rather than try to improve the country’s standing, political leaders in recent weeks have spent their time fighting one another, trading accusations of terrorism and incompetence, moving to consolidate power and boycotting the parliament. The political drama has made it more difficult to do business, with government bureaucrats unsure not only how to process work but also who runs their agencies.
“In Iraq at the moment, you’ve got no idea what is going on,” said a businessman who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
Small merchants say shoppers aren’t spending as much amid uncertainty about what the future holds.
“When the crisis took place and the blasts took place, the people became conservative,” Emad al-Khafaji, a tailor in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood, said recently while taking a break from hemming a garment.
Around the corner, other merchants have noticed business slowing since the political crisis and waves of bombs erupted after U.S. troops left Dec. 18. Haider al-Kwaz, 24, works in a family-run shop that sells men’s clothes. He said business has been down 50 percent in the past three weeks. “The owners are sitting in front of their stores like they are sitting in front of their houses,” Kwaz said.
‘A lot of uncertainty’
Violence took a sharply sectarian turn Thursday, when a suicide bomber killed 48 Shiite pilgrims walking to the holy city of Karbala and explosions killed 24 people in Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. If such attacks continue, the slowdown the merchants are feeling “could become worse in a hurry,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of a recent paper titled “The Broader Crisis in Iraq.”
Hussain al-Shahristani, the country’s deputy prime minister for energy affairs, said the government is committed to diversifying its oil wealth into new areas of the economy — and doing so through real democracy.
“People in this part of the world have been told that they have to choose between freedom or prosperity,” Shahristani said. “In Iraq, we are determined to prove them wrong.”
He said that power plants are under construction and that more oil will be exported through a tanker terminal set to open this year. As for political disputes and bombings, he said they have had little effect on foreign oil companies.
“If they have complaints, it’s not about the political debate or the bombings in Baghdad or elsewhere, it’s about some bureaucracy at seaports, at custom clearances, visa applications and so on,” Shahristani said. “We have come a long way, but still the companies expect speedier procedures, and I do fully agree with them.”
British insurance executive Jonathan Biles founded Iraq Gate Insurance Brokers in Baghdad in 2009, with policies that cover construction liability, kidnapping and ransom, among other areas. He takes the long view of economic development in Iraq.
“If you had a one-year plan, you would never come,” he said. “If you had a three-year plan, you would be constantly weeping. If you have a five-year plan, you may just be thinking things were going OK. But with a 20-year plan, it has to work.”
Still, as foreign companies weigh investing here, Biles said he worries that they will look at recent events and go elsewhere: “Money looks at the whole world, and money doesn’t like uncertainty. And, right now, you’ve got of lot of uncertainty in Iraq. Will this uncertainty hamper investment in the new Iraq? I suspect it will.”
Trading amid bad news
At Rabee Securities, located two blocks from the Iraq Stock Exchange, the blast last month blew out windows and caved in parts of the ceiling.
One of Rabee’s traders, Tamara Hussain, lost her sister in the explosion. She worked as a lawyer for the government’s anti-corruption agency.
But Hussain was back at work in the new year. “I can’t stay at home and see my mother crying all the time,” she said from her desk at Rabee’s repaired offices. “I try not to think about the bomb.”
Down the hall, a half-dozen investors requested trades from Rabee brokers, who made the transactions over laptop computers. Electrical engineer Saeed Dharhi, 58, wants to buy bank shares. But as the market slipped this year, he has not purchased any stocks. “Bad news in politics and explosions,” he said.