Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Female Brando

I'm reading an interesting book, a biography, but I disagree with the basic premise.

It's Jon Krampner's "The Female Brando."  It's about the actress Kim Stanley.

Kim Stanley was a Method actress.  She's thought to be peerless in the theatre.  That's not true.  Julie Harris was her peer and outshone her. 

But Kim had a great deal of talent herself.

She lacked looks.

She was pissed that Marilyn Monroe got the lead in the film of "Bus Stop" (Kim had the lead in the play).

She played a Marilyn Monroe type in "The Goddess."

This is one of her three big film roles.  "Seance On A Wet Afternoon" and "Frances" (with Jessica Lange) are the other two big films she did.  (She only made five films in her long career.)

I disagree that Kim's the female Brando.

If a woman could be that, she'd need to be a film actress because that's what Brando was.

After the play "A Streetcar Named Desire" got Hollywood interested, Brando was off to the movies and done with the theatre.

And for Stanley to only have five films?  Nope, not the female Brando. 

I wish the ridiculous claim hadn't been made because it just sticks out like a sore thumb.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, September 20, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a mosque is bombed, an important anniversary takes place, a man in Karbala attempts to set himself on fire, the KRG votes in provincial elections tomorrow, we look at who the biggest loser could be (hint, if things go bad for the PUK, the biggest loser will most likely be a woman), and more.

Iraq received some attention from the world's press today.  For violence.  That's what the western media caught.  What they missed was how important today was.

Violence isn't the only story in Iraq.  Today was the nine month anniversary of the start of the ongoing protests.  Dropping back to the December 21st snapshot:

AFP says the new crisis "threatens to reignite a long-running feud between the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc" and Nouri and his State of Law political slate.  What the heck are we talking about?  Look at this Reuters photo (individual photographer is not credited by the news agency or we'd note him or her by name) of the thousands who turned out to protest in Falluja today demanding Nouri al-Maliki resign as prime minister.
After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.

Aymenn J Al-Tamimi Tweets of today's protests:

  1. : Friday protest placard from : "We won't forget the targeting of mosques of the Ahl as-Sunnah':

Iraqi Spring MC notes Baghdad protested and called for the detainees to be respected, in Ramadi they noted the right of the citizens to defend themselves and the right to call for an unresponsive government to be dissolved, they gathered in Mosul (despite 5 bridges being closed to try to stop the protest),  they gathered in Tikrit, they gathered in Samarra,  and they gathered in Jawala,

National Iraqi News Agency quotes an Anbar sit-in organizer, Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, stating: "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction."

It's not easy to protest in Iraq.  As Shajwan Tweeted last month:

A protest is the citizens best way in speaking their needs, not in though! No freedom of speech!

They have the Constitutional right to protest but, as the picture indicates, when they try to exercise that right, Nouri's thugs descend.   Nouri's worst attack on the protesters was the  April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

The theme of today's protests was solidarity with Basra.  Basra?  Sunnis are being killed there in targeted executions.  BRussells Tribunal explains:

  Sunni Endowment Diwan announced last Monday the closure of Sunni mosques in Barah following a number of assassinations and killings during the past weeks in the second largest city of Iraq.  The office of the Diwan in Basrah stated that Sunni mosques in Basrah will only call for prayers (Adan) from the speakers of mosques and advised Sunni sect members to hold prayers at homes for the sake of saving their lives.
Saad Qusay, a very active journalist and correspondent in Basrah raised concerns some days ago about the escalated violence, stating that not even one single day goes by without witnessing an assassination or killing by militants using silencer guns.
Targeted assassinations and killings
On 17 September an Imam of the Sunni mosque Balad Salama in the district of Abi Al-Kaseeb was assassinated, Elaph, a London-based and widely read electronic newspaper, reports. The Imam was shot dead, close to his mosque, by militants who were in a passing car in the district of Abi Al-Kaseeb, a widely Sunni populated district. Two other people from Basrah were assassinated by militias last Monday, Elaph said today. In the same district, militants kidnapped Talal Abdul-Hafed Faroq, a clerk of the Sunni Endowment Diwan, who owns a grocery shop, and killed him a while after the kidnapping, Basrah News Agency reported.
Sheikh Nateq Yasseen, an Imam and speaker of Al-Sibelyat mosque, was assassinated by militant groups. Sheikh Yasseen was a former member of the municipal council of Abo Al-Kaseeb district.
Two worshippers were targeted and got killed thereafter at the district of Al-Ma’kal in Basrah. Meanwhile, a cleric at the Sunni Endowment Diwan in Basrah was injured due to an explosion of a bombed car inside the yard of the Diwan. Abdul-Kareem Al-Kazragi, director of the Sunni Endowment Diwan of south Iraq said that a bomb was placed in a bus taking the Diwan’s employees. Luckily none of the employees was injured as they had to do overtime for auditing work and the bus exploded causing no human casualties. Mr. Al-Kazragi called for strengthening security measures for the protection of the Sunni Endowment Diwan offices.
In the Al-Zubair district west of Basrah, militants using guns with silencers killed a worshipper close to Al-Kudairi mosque. Two brothers were kidnapped in Al-Jomhoreya quarter in Basrah by unknown militants who killed them and thrown their bodies before their house. One of the two brothers owns a shopping center, according to a security sources speaking to the Basrah News agency.  Three civilians killed and eleven others injured last Sunday when a bombed car exploded at an industrial street in Basrah.

Today was the nine month anniversary of continuous protests in Iraq.  You might think the world media could make time to cover the brave people who turn out despite being targeted, despite being followed, despite being called "terrorists" by Nouri al-Maliki.  They have shown so much strength and so much courage and could inspire the whole world if only the world knew what was taking place in Iraq.

Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports a  man in Karbala today launched his own protest. To register his objection to the lack of jobs in Iraq, 30-year-old Ali Mohammed attempted to set himself on fire in front of a Karbala government building.  He and his wife have four children and no income. So he threw gasoline on himself and attempted to burn himself to death but security officials were able to stop him before he set himself ablaze.

Violence continues in Iraq today with an attack on a mosque.  Xinhua reports, "The attack occurred when two improvised explosive devices hidden inside the air cooling system exploded in the Musab bin Omair Mosque near the city of Samarra, 120 km north of the capital Baghdad, as people were gathering in the mosque for noon prayers, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.Al Jazeera adds, "Samarra is a largely Sunni Muslim city that is home to a revered Shia shrine."  Ghazwan Hassan, Isabel Coles and Louise Ireland (Reuters) quote survivor Saleh al-Shamani, "During the Friday prayer suddenly a huge explosion took place. Black smoke filled the mosque, we could not see each other. I tried to stand, but I couldn't as I had some injuries in my legs."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports 18 dead and twenty-nine injured.

Mahmud Saleh (AFP) offers this perspective, "The blasts came a day after the bodies of 10 young men who had been shot dead were found in Baghdad, another reminder of the sectarian conflict in Iraq, during which militants frequently carried out summary executions."  While true, a better context would be to drop back to last Friday.  This was a Sunni mosque that was attacked.

That also happened last week.  AFP reported then, "Two roadside bombs exploded outside a mosque in the Iraqi city of Baquba killing 30 people, as Sunni Muslim worshippers were leaving following Friday prayers, police said. A further 25 people were wounded in the blasts, which went off in quick succession. The second tore through a crowd of people who had rushed to help those hurt in the first.  It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack."

Saleh also notes a Samarra mortar attack left 1 woman and her daughter dead and the woman's husband was left injured, while a second mortar attack claimed the life of another young female and left two members of her family injured and a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 doctor if police are believed (if medical sources are believed, the doctor was shot dead).  In addition, NINA reports a Baquba roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two people injured, and 1 Iraqi soldier was kidnapped in Hawija.  Dar Addustour reports 42 corpses have been discovered dumped throughout Baghdad in the last 24 hours and that people see this as a sign of a return to a civil war.

We note repeatedly how the State Dept refuses/forgets to note violence in Iraq.  A State Dept friend called me to say it was noted in today's press briefing.  I held off the joy.  I'm glad I did.  Here's the exchange between State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf and Said Arikat (Al Quds Daily Newspaper):


MS. HARF: Iraq.

QUESTION: I wonder if you have any comments on the spike in violence in Iraq, including some accusations of ethnic cleansing.

MS. HARF: Yes, let me see what I have here. And I know we’ve talked about this for months now, actually – the levels of violence in Iraq – and it’s obviously something we take very seriously and remain deeply concerned about. We condemn, of course, in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attacks in Iraq.
We’ve said this and we’ll say it again, but these attacks are reprehensible, and quite frankly, they don’t represent what a majority of the Iraqi people want. These are extremist elements, terrorist elements in Iraq. We’ve talked about some of the spillover effect from Syria that it’s having, unfortunately, on Iraq. And we will continue to stand with the Iraqi people against this violence and our commitment to support efforts to bring those responsible to justice.
I would also note, I think, that just happened recently was a national conference of Iraq’s leaders from across the political spectrum to sign initiatives to ease tensions and set a direction, in fact, towards resolving political differences. So clearly, this violence is reprehensible, but I would note a positive step in terms of the political side and all parties being a part of it right now.

It took Said asking for Harf to address the topic and she had to flip through her cheat sheet notebook because she's still -- all these months later -- unprepared for her job and thrown by any question on Iraq -- despite the fact that the State Dept now leads the US mission in Iraq.

 EFE points out that today's mosque attack "came hours after leaders of most of Iraq’s political parties signed a pact of  'honor and social peace' to confront a resurgence of sectarian violence."  As we noted yesterday, the document is worthless.  Similar ones have been signed and changed nothing.  Already, that appears to be the case with the latest pretense at peace.  NINA notes Nouri's Dawa political party announced today that they should get every Iraqi citizen to sing the (worthless) statement.  They're for real?  Nouri refuses to conduct a census but they think they can get everyone in Iraq to sign that worthless contract.  Mushtaq Hussein Ali (Kitabat) notes the lack of substance among the signers and in the document itself.

Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr was one of the leaders who didn't attend the fake conference Thursday.  Dar Addustour reports that he's announced he will use Sundays to meet with people face to face.  This can be read as a poke at Nouri's worthless weekly announcements (Nouri makes those on Wednesdays).  Wael Grace (Al Mada) speaks with the Sadr bloc and they explain their position is that Nouri heads the government, he's refused to implement power sharing, so the ball's in his hands and its up to Nouri to solve the problems (that he created).  As we noted yesterday, this is a US-led effort to make Nouri look good.  Asked about it in today's press briefing, US State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf played down the US involvement:

QUESTION: Is the U.S. taking any part in this reconciliation effort?

MS. HARF: The U.S. clearly supports all these efforts by Iraqi political leaders that constructively and cooperatively address the complex issues. I don’t have any more details for you than that. Obviously, senior people on the ground and here are in constant contact with our Iraqi counterparts.

From Thursday's snapshot:

The US Embassy organized the faux event with Brett McGurk acting as lead (and as usual, unable to keep his trap shut -- and somebody tell his latest wife that, true or false, there are rumors -- two reporters passed it on to me -- that his zipper's again come down).  The point was to create this 'reset' for Iraq that would have the press citing this non-event as a starting point and not the April event so many outlets are currently using.
 That would be the  April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
 The US State Dept ordered a re-set point to be established ahead of Nouri's expected visit to the White House later this month.  They really want the press focusing on this non-event, on this so-called peace conference (which accomplished nothing) as opposed to focusing on the massacre as Nouri and Barack pose together for pictures.
 Today's staged event wasn't about peace.  It wasn't about the Iraqi people.  It was about spiffing up Nouri before he hits the US so that Barack is protected.

Also not attending was Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi who has been engaging in conversations via his Twitter feed.  Here's one example.

    1. Change will only happen if there is a disengagement from sectarianism and an adoption of civil-state building that serves all Iraqis.
    2. the first step to improve the democracy in Iraq is by changing the election system
    3. This is one of many steps including respect of the constitution, all-inclusive political process and real instution-buidling.

  • While they work at establishing dialogue with the Iraqi people, Nouri just keeps doing the same old thing.  BBC News observes:

    In recent weeks, Iraqi security forces have reportedly arrested hundreds of alleged al-Qaeda members in and around Baghdad as part of a campaign the Shia-led government is calling "Revenge for the martyrs".
    But the operations, which have taken place mostly in Sunni districts, have angered the Sunni community and failed to halt the violence.

    It's not just failing to halt the violence, it's breeding violence.  Nouri has had seven years to grasp that this won't work but he's incapable of learning from his mistakes -- or even admitting that he can make mistakes. IRIN looks at what Nouri and others are attempting to 'address' the violence.  Excerpt:

    “So far, there appears to be little appetite by political leaders for the compromises necessary to halt the escalating violence,” ICG said in its monthly CrisisWatch. “Instead, the government has requested from the US additional weaponry and intelligence support in order to ‘combat terrorism’.” In August, the government arrested over 670 people, ICG said, as part of a new military operation called “Martyrs’ Revenge”.
    The operation focused on large-scale arrests of suspected “terrorists” in predominantly Sunni Arab areas on the outskirts of the capital, Baghdad, as well as seizures of weapons. While the operation saw some successes, it - like the Kirkuk trench - also poses some risks.
    “Any short-term improvements in terms of security could be outweighed in the long-term if the Sunni community feels it is being targeted by the government for a crime they have not committed,” said Hayder al Khoei, associate fellow in the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House in London.
    Experts say the rise in violence in Kirkuk Province is linked to the growing strength, nationwide, of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in recent months. Instability stemming from power-sharing disagreements makes Kirkuk an easy target for the groups.

    In other news of violence,  Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) reports:

    A massacre this month at an Iranian exile camp in Iraq that killed 52 people under international protection was an act of premeditated slaughter and should be thoroughly investigated by the United Nations, two former foreign ministers told the world body Thursday.
    Former foreign ministers Bernard Kouchner of France and Sid Ahmed Ghozali of Algeria told a U.N. panel in Geneva that the Sept. 1 raid on the exile refuge known as Camp Ashraf represents "a crime against humanity." The former top diplomats also said they had grave fear for the safety of seven survivors of the attack who were taken hostage.

    As of this month, Camp Ashraf is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

    For another aspect of the Ashraf community in the news, we'll drop back to Monday's snapshot:

    US Senator Robert Menendez issued a statement on the attack which included, "I hold the Iraqi government directly responsible to protect the community, to investigate this matter thoroughly, and to prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous act. I am deeply concerned for the seven hostages who were taken during this attack. The Iraqi government should act swiftly to determine their whereabouts and ensure their safety. There is added urgency for the global community, as well as for the United States, to help resettle this community outside of Iraq, and end this cycle of ongoing terror attacks."  Seven Ashraf hostages? Nouri's government denied they existed but they did and do. Last week, UNHCR issued the following statement:

    These seven are all known by UNHCR to be asylum-seekers, and the agency hopes to have an opportunity to interview them. In light of the numerous and persistent reports over the past week that these individuals may be at risk of forced return to Iran, UNHCR calls upon the Government of Iraq to locate them, to ensure their physical security, and to safeguard them against return to Iran against their will.

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher issued a statement noting them and the continued attacks on the Ashraf community.  He observed, "The refugees disarmed themselves with faith in U.S. Government guarantees of their safety. If we fail them, nobody will believe us again." The World Organisation Against Torture issued a statement and a call for action:

    According to the information received, on 1st September 2013 seven Iranian exiles, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group, were abducted from Camp Ashraf during an attack carried out by the Iraqi security forces, which also led to the death of 52 people and several injured[1]. The seven residents are: Ms. Fatemeh Tahoori, Ms. Vajihe Karbalaey, Ms. Mahnaz Azizi, Ms. Lila Nabahat, Ms. Zahra Ramezani, Ms. Fatema Sakhie and Mr. Mohammad Ratebi.  
    According to the same information received, on 12th September 2013, Mr. Kamel Amin, Deputy of the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, confirmed the arrest of seven members of the PMOI and announced that they are in the custody of the security forces.
    OMCT is gravely concerned about the fate and safety of Ms. Fatemeh Tahoori, Ms. Vajihe Karbalaey, Ms. Mahnaz Azizi, Ms. Lila Nabahat, Ms. Zahra Ramezani, Ms. Fatema Sakhie and Mr. Mohammad Ratebi. OMCT urges the Iraqi authorities to immediately disclose their exact whereabouts and to guarantee their physical and psychological integrity at all times, in accordance with international human rights law.
    OMCT fears that they may be forcibly returned to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. OMCT recalls to the Iraqi authorities the absolute prohibition of sending a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations.
    OMCT further urges the Iraqi authorities to immediately release them in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, or, if such charges exist, to bring them promptly before an impartial, independent and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.
    Action requested
    Please write to the authorities in Iraq urging them to:
    i.           Immediately disclose the exact whereabouts of Ms. Fatemeh Tahoori, Ms. Vajihe Karbalaey, Ms. Mahnaz Azizi, Ms. Lila Nabahat, Ms. Zahra Ramezani, Ms. Fatema Sakhie and Mr. Mohammad Ratebi;
    ii.         Guarantee, in all circumstances, their physical and psychological integrity, including by not forcibly returning them to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment;
    iii.        Order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, or, if such charges exist, bring them promptly before an impartial, independent and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
    iv.        Guarantee unconditional access to all members of their family and their lawyers;
    v.         Guarantee that they are examined by independent doctors and receive adequate medical care;
    i.           Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances of these events, the results of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
    ii.         Ensure the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


    Ø  Prime Minister, H.E. Nouri Kamil Al-Maliki, Email:;
    Ø  Minister of Justice, H.E. Hassan al-Shammari, Ministry of Justice;
    Ø  Minister of Human Rights, H.E. Mohammed Shia´al-Sudani, Ministry of Human Rights,
    Ø  H.E Mr. Mohammad Sabir Ismail, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Email:, Fax. +41 22 733 03 26
    Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iraq in your respective countries.

    Today, there's an unexpected development with regards to the 7 hostages.  Alsumaria reports Nouri issued a statement declaring his security forces were not holding any hostages.

    Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.  He weighs in on the Ashraf community and Nouri at The Hill:

    While protecting Ashraf residents seems at first blush to be a minor issue, it is of great strategic import regarding U.S. credibility: If Tehran and Damascus view American diplomacy as unable to persuade Baghdad to make any compromises, the Iranian and Syrian regimes are less likely to take seriously U.S. threats to use military force.
    While tolerating the Iraqi regime as being a naysayer erodes U.S. credibility, accepting evil deeds by the regime erodes the American claim to moral exceptionalism in the world. Evil by Iraqi guardians is not the banal operations of faceless bureaucrats merely executing orders from above. Rather, their evil deeds are a part of a strategy for Baghdad to carry out the goal of Tehran to torture, persecute, and forcibly repatriate to Iran members of the main prodemocracy organization that rejects clerical rule in Iran. And because international humanitarian law precludes transfer of persons from one state to another if they face risk of persecution, the evil deeds committed by an American ally tars our moral status and credibility of U.S. deterrent and coercive threats.

    Turning to northern Iraq,  AFP offers a photo of Kurish women carrying flags with "the portrait of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani."  No, he hasn't died -- at least the death rumor's been denied.  He also hasn't returned to Iraq.   Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    AFP's photo is about the KRG voting tomorrow in provincial elections (early voting -- for the security forces -- took place Thursday).  Kira Walker (Rudaw) offers:

    The lead-up to Saturday’s legislative elections in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region has spurred a flurry of near-celebrations on the streets of Erbil, the Kurdish capital.
    On the walls of nearly every office and home, hanging from lamp posts or moving along on the sides of busses, are the smiling, bearded or turbaned campaign posters and banners of about 1,000 candidates in Saturday’s race for the 111-seat Kurdish assembly. Colorful party flags billow in the wind.
    For many foreigners or Kurds who have spent long years abroad -- and there are many of both in this three-province Kurdish enclave that remains Iraq’s only haven of calm and economic prosperity – the elections evoke both curiosity and excitement.
    Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has had its own Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, have been internationally as free and fair, and as the only successful democratic experiment in the region.

    BBC Monitoring notes, "This is the fourth parliamentary polls since Iraqi Kurds established the region in Irbil, Sulaimaniya and Dahuk provinces in 1991."  They go on to review the basics of tomorrow's vote in an easy to follow question and answer format.  The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization opines:

    The legislative elections in Iraqi Kurdistan scheduled for 21 September 2013 will be a crucial political event in the history of the autonomous region in northern Iraq, as it may be a turning point to change the political shape of the next parliament, as well as the new government cabinet. Campaigns for the fourth legislative elections in Iraqi Kurdistan started on 28 August and lasted until 17 September. Rates of pre-election violence have thus far been relatively low. Female politicians are hoping to win more seats in the regional legislature, continuing the trend of the previous legislative elections in 2009. In the 21 September legislative elections 2.8 million out of the regions 5.5 million inhabitants are eligible to vote.

    The two main parties are the KDP (led by KRG President Massoud Barzani) and the PUK (which is supposed to be headed by Jalal Talabani).  As noted earlier, Talabani's in Germany and has been for nine months.  Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that, despite this, the PUK has been using Talbani's image in various campaign materials::

    The struggles facing Jalal Talabani’s bloc, which for decades has held a duopoly on power in the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, could prove instructive for parties across the country. 
    Many of them, like his bloc, remain dependent on personalities rather than policies, ahead of national elections due in less than a year.
    Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has faced tough competition from a breakaway faction as well as Islamist and Communist groupings in its home base of Sulaimaniyah ahead of the three-province Kurdish region’s September 21 parliamentary election."

    If the PUK does less well than in 2009, there will be complaining.  If the PUK does really bad, there will be outrage.   The one who will face the most criticism may be First Lady of Iraq Hero Ibrahim Ahmed who has been reluctant to heed the advice of PUK leaders and assume the presidency in her husband's absence.  Could she?  Yes.  In the plan they outlined, Hero would not be "President Hero," she would be carrying out the will of her husband while he remains in Germany.  She would be voting by proxy.  She has refused that (just as she refused to take over the position outright) arguing that to do so would leave the impression that Jalal was unable to do his job.

    She's correct people would assume that.  But Jalal has now been out of the country for nine months.  Iraq's been without a president for nine months.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's recent revelation that he was refused when he attempted to visit Jalal in the hospital last April does not bode well for Jalal's health or his stature.  And it really makes the point for the posters in Arabic social media who compared the May 18th photos of 'healthy' Jalal to Weekend At Bernies. (In Weekend At Bernies, two men use Bernie's corpse to pretend Bernie's still alive.)

    If  Hero has the most to lose in tomorrow's vote, the one with the most to gain from the PUK suffering a big loss is Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari who has wanted to grab the Iraqi presidency for some time and attempted a move right after Jalal's stroke but was rebuffed by those in party leadership loyal to Jalal and Hero.

    Credit to Prashant Rao for covering the fact that Jalal's absence may negatively impact the PUK vote tomorrow but is no one going to run through what that means?  Probably not.  It appears AFP is the only western media outlet that's going to report on the KRG elections from inside the Kurdistan Region.

    Sangar Jamal (Niqash) reports on the elections:

    Nazad Jalal has never travelled quite so much before. During the past ten days, the 31-year-old political science graduate, who runs his own media website, has been touring as many places in Iraqi Kurdistan as he can get to. Jalal is standing as a candidate in elections in the semi-autonomous region, due to be held this coming Saturday, Sept.21. Special votes were cast on Thursday, Sept. 19.

    Jalal is standing as part of Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest opposition party, the Change movement.

    “I was always in touch with the people here through my work,” Jalal told NIQASH. “So I knew about how they live and their problems. But I didn’t have that much contact with them personally; I had more contact with my writers and with politicians. But now that I am campaigning in these elections, I’ve really met a lot of people and had very close contact with them.”

    Jalal is one of among 1,129 candidates in the region with similar ambitions. And they’ve all been pounding the streets, streets absolutely littered with campaign posters.

    Because of the way that elections are structured this time around – voters can vote for the candidates individually as well as for the parties in a semi-open electoral system – the campaigning has been particularly fierce since it began at the end of August.

    For example, Kasha Dara, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, (PUK) who will remain an MP in the Iraqi Kurdish parliament until November, is the 11th name on her party’s list. Together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the PUK currently run the region – and during the last elections Dara was also on her party’s list, therefore got a seat. However these elections she must campaign as much as possible for herself.

    She insists she’s made the same sort of effort during the last elections though. It’s just that this system “brings the candidate closer to the people. And this will increase credibility in the elections as well as competition between candidates.”

    The biggest parties competing in the elections have helped their representatives out financially. Those parties – the KDP and the PUK which currently rule the region, the Change movement and the two Islamic parties – have also mobilized their own media outlets to support their candidates.

    One of the PUK’s candidates, Kawthar Karim, reported that her party had given each candidate around IQD12 million (around US$10,000) to help them campaign. The KDP has apparently done similar to allow candidates to print posters and cards. 

    The Change movement printed 4,000 posters for each of its candidates and the two Islamic parties also gave their candidates some cash as well as helped them print posters.

    al mada