Sunday, February 20, 2005

Nabil's Article, Election Analysis, NYT



1) Published this past week:

http://www.isim.nl/files/Review_15/Review_15.pdf

>From Showcase to Basket case: Higher Education in Iraq

Nabil Al-Tikriti

Iraq’s academic professionals continue to face an
uphill struggle to maintain standards following years
of sanctions and months of social chaos. Although
some may remain optimistic about a future free of
centralized ministerial oversight and autocratic
governance, many more feel bitterness for the lack of
international support offered since the beginning of
the US/UK invasion and subsequent occupation. As with
so much of post-war Iraq, the higher education sector
is yet another area where US military, political, and
bureaucratic intervention has proven more damaging
than revitalizing.

Times are hard for professors in Iraq today—very
hard. Since the US/UK “coalition of the willing”
invaded the country in March 2003 and forcibly evicted
the country’s sovereign government, an estimated
10-15% of Iraq’s 16,500 instructors spread across some
20 universities have left the country. In addition to
facing bitterly disappointed expectations of US
institutional support in the past 20 months,
professors have been forced to cope with widespread
looting, targeted violence, campus politicization, and
institutional uncertainty. Although some actors
remain optimistic about a future for a higher
education sector liberated from a stifling and highly
centralized state control, most remain apprehensive
about the same sector liberated from sources of
funding, professors, and campus civility.
Times were not always so bad. Iraq’s universities
were a proud part of the national patrimony from the
1950’s to the 1980’s, and were widely considered among
the region’s best throughout this period. Observers
recall a vibrant and exciting 1970’s, when the
university sector engaged in international research
ventures, published top-flight journals in the
humanities and the sciences, surveyed the country’s
unrivalled archaeological sites, catalogued Iraq’s
impressive manuscript holdings, and sent its best
graduates to earn Ph.D.’s at the foremost research
universities in Europe and North America. Many of
those internationally educated graduates returned home
in the 1980’s and provided the scientific expertise
needed to build the state’s advanced arms programs in
that time of war.
Although the growth and elaboration of higher
education continued through much of the 1980’s, the
twin effects of state Saddamization and compulsory
fiscal restraint during the long and difficult
Iran-Iraq War began to sap the energy and vibrancy of
the universities. By the end of the decade, the good
times had clearly passed as state monitoring of campus
politics began to negatively affect retention of
academic talent. Yet, by the war’s end education
professionals could still hope to be optimistic about
a long-waited post-war future.
The beginning of the end for Iraqi higher education
dates to the government’s ill-advised hostile takeover
of Kuwait in 1990. After the international community
mobilized to enforce the illegality of an unprovoked
and unsanctioned invasion of one sovereign country by
another, Iraq found itself facing a crushing sanctions
regime and hefty reparation requirements vis-a-vis
Kuwait. Iraqis initially expected to endure a few
months of financial difficulty until the UN Security
Council disarmament protocols could be carried out.
Instead, the sanctions regime continued for nearly
thirteen years, primarily due to US and UK insistence.

Trapped in a formerly affluent society now forced to
prioritize procurement of basic necessities, Iraq’s
universities faced gradual decline throughout the
1990’s. Higher education suffered not only from
internationally enforced neglect, but the sector also
found itself physically and intellectually cut off
from the rest of the world. Under sanctions,
international exchanges ended completely, journal
subscriptions were prohibited, high technology
purchases were forbidden, and spare parts for
previously purchased equipment were halted. Famously,
even pencils were embargoed due to the “dual use”
capability of lead. Combined with the continuing
strictures on intellectual curiosity springing from an
increasingly apprehensive and insecure authoritarian
ruling elite, many of the country’s most talented
academics found the situation unbearable and
emigrated. An estimated 10,000 instructors left the
country in the 1990’s. In spite of such adversity,
those professors who remained managed to maintain
academic standards through increasingly desperate
forms of improvisation. For example, in order to keep
up with scientific advances, medical school
instructors annually obtained from Jordan a single
copy of relevant medical textbooks, which were then
provided to photocopiers for class distribution.
Although scientific research ground to a halt,
university instruction continued.

Looting strips the campuses
The final coup de grace for Iraq’s academe occurred in
the chaos which followed the fall of the Ba‘athist
government in April 2003. Expressing anger,
frustration, and consternation about a suddenly fallen
state sector, various elements took privatization of
government institutions—like universities—into their
own hands with a wave of mass lootings. It has been
suggested that officials carried out some of the
looting to erase a contentious past. Although that
may be true for several sensitive state facilities,
the university looters seem to have largely consisted
of urban poor. While the effect of the looting was
spread unevenly throughout the country, the damage to
many facilities was devastating. Various library
facilities were looted and/or burned, as were much of
the holdings of such cultural repositories and
research institutions as the Baghdad Museum, National
Archives, Awqaf Library, Iraqi Academy of Sciences,
and Bayt al-Hikma. The looting of campus offices
destroyed much of the institutional memory of Iraq’s
universities. Student records, personnel records,
faculty files, and many other sorts of records which
provide the “nuts and bolts” of education
administration were lost -- as they were in so many
other sectors. To Iraqis, the looting of April 2003
was only the most recent act of a long-term conspiracy
to “keep Iraq down” rather than an unfortunate example
of “stuff happening” when an authoritarian regime
collapses. As one Iraqi saying had it when the
government fell and the former president disappeared,
“now the student has left—and the master has arrived.”

University life in occupied Iraq
Iraqi professors, students, and administrators had
reason to hope that their situation might improve.
Unfortunately, the period following the establishment
of the US/UK occupation can largely be characterized
as “one step forward, two steps backward” and has only
served to confirm Iraqi suspicions concerning US
motives. The anticipated reconstruction support from
US institutions never materialized on a scale capable
of restoring the tattered glory of Iraq’s universities
due partly to policy choice, and partly to
circumstance.
The Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific
Research has calculated that $1.2 billion is needed
for university rehabilitation. Against that need, the
ministry has been allocated approximately $20 million
in benefits from USAID contracts awarded to American
universities, and $20 million from other international
donors. Not only is that amount tiny compared to the
estimated required amount, it is also a drop in the
bucket against the $18.6 billion total funds approved
by the US Congress for Iraqi reconstruction in
November 2003. In one sense, it has made little
difference—only an estimated 20% of such
reconstruction funds had been disbursed by June 2004
in any case.
>From the beginning, US administrators allocated
funding in accordance with short term US interests
rather than long-term Iraqi interests. The Republican
party apparatchiks sent by the Bush Administration to
staff the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) did
the best they could, but the strictures of
neo-conservative policy goals designed to “spread
democracy” seriously undermined any efforts to remedy
the situation at hand. For example, it was felt to be
of the highest priority to ensure that every primary
school student in the country received new textbooks,
complete with USAID-approved re-interpretations of
Iraqi, Arab, and Islamic history. Combined with a
widely-advertised initiative to leave no primary or
secondary school unpainted, the pre-university sector
received an estimated 7-8 times more funding support
than higher education from the US government and the
World Bank—betraying a prioritization of the mass
indoctrination of Iraqi youth through new textbooks
over the restoration of Iraq’s regional pre-eminence
in higher education.
As with other Iraqi state assets, there was briefly
some discussion of setting up private “international”
educational institutions to compete with, and perhaps
supplant, state higher education facilities. However,
like so much else that has been envisioned since the
spring of 2003, this idea has yet to materialize
beyond a couple of pilot efforts. These institutions,
the “American Liberal Arts University of Iraq” in
Arbil and the “College of Democracy,” are both located
in Northern Iraq and are closely identified with
former CPA Higher Education Advisor John Agrestos.
Another priority of US administrators appears to have
been providing corporate welfare to US companies in
the form of reconstruction contracts. This mode of
funding has so far led to a uniquely American brand of
corporate corruption, whereby US taxpayers pay top
dollar to US companies for basic jobs like painting
primary schools. In turn, the US companies hire local
subcontractors at pennies on the dollar to physically
fulfill the contracted work. The leakage implied in
such a contracting protocol would rival any patronage
system of the type routinely condemned by World Bank
and IMF investigators in less wealthy societies.
Although this sort of structure has been somewhat less
in evidence in the higher education sector than in
other sectors, the overall effect has been to bleed
the US economy while robbing Iraqis of sovereignty
over their own institutions.
One of the most damaging CPA decisions concerning the
universities sprung from the wider US goal of
“de-Ba‘athification.” In May 2003, newly-appointed
CPA head Paul Bremer announced a comprehensive policy
of de-Ba‘athification for state employees above the
middle ranks. Even prior to Bremer’s announcement,
Iraqi public opinion—and a couple of targeted
assassinations—forced many unpopular campus Ba‘athist
apparatchiks into hiding. However, after this
wide-ranging decree, public education institutions
found themselves robbed of much of their best talent,
as CPA Advisor and education commissar Andrew Erdmann
oversaw the expulsion of an estimated 1,400 university
instructors for Ba‘ath party membership. Although
many of these professionals were later rehired, the
institutional damage has been considerable.
Research professionals associated with the former
government’s weapons development program found
themselves detained by US officials in prison camps.
The most notable example is Amer al-Sa‘adi, an Iraqi
scientist who became famous before the war for
denying, accurately, that Iraq had any weapons of mass
destruction (WMD). Anticipating a quick release once
Iraq’s lack of WMD became known, Dr. al-Sa‘adi turned
himself in to US forces immediately after Baghdad’s
fall. He remains in detention, and repeated calls for
his release through an international petition drive
led by his German wife, who survived the August 2003
Canal Hotel bombing while arguing his case to UN
officials, have to date failed to sway US authorities.

In addition to the physical damage endured in the
wave of looting and the staff depletion caused by
Bremer’s decree and other US actions, the universities
have faced serious issues of campus and personal
security. Since March 2003, at least 200 academics
have faced violent attacks, the fate of 75 kidnapped
instructors remains unknown, and at least 14
professors have been murdered in a targeted fashion.
In light of such danger, it should come as no surprise
that an estimated 1,600-2,000 university instructors
have left the country. Those professors remaining
behind have been obliged to face the inevitable
politicization of campus life that followed the
collapse of a system designed to carefully channel
political energies towards centrally-mandated goals
for more than a generation. Campuses quickly became
arenas for intense political competition between
groups affiliated with various factions of the Iraqi
political scene. While public political discussion
was a welcome change for many in the new order, such
politicization has proved disruptive to campus
civility and intimidated many. A recent academic
visitor from Jordan was warned against visiting
campuses because there were “spies” who might inform
on the stranger’s presence.
Against all odds, Iraq’s university staff carries on:
physical plants have been repaired, new structures of
institutional governance have been established, and
library collections have been re-organized with the
addition of some book shipments. However, such
activities continue in the face of a shoestring
budget, meagre international support, and a myriad of
security problems. The combination of staff shortfall
and financial constraints has grown so dire in recent
months that 134 Ph.D. programs have been eliminated
throughout the university system. As a sign of just
how precarious the security situation has become for
government officials, the Ministry of Education was
hit by a car bomb in the first week of November 2004.
In light of all the obstacles, in some sense it is
remarkable that higher education continues at all in
Iraq. The fact that it does is a tribute to the
courage and pride of Iraq’s educators.

Nabil Al-Tikriti is Assistant Professor of Middle East
History at the University of Mary Washington in
Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA.
Email: naltikriti@yahoo.com


2) 'Biggest Cultural Disaster Since 1258', Says Expert
Humberto Márquez:

CARACAS, Feb 15 (IPS) - One million books, 10 million
documents and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have
been lost in the U.S.-led invasion and subsequent
occupation of Iraq -- the biggest cultural disaster
since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed
Baghdad in 1258, Venezuelan writer Fernando Báez told
IPS.

http://www.ipsnews.net/new_nota.asp?idnews=27459


3) Election Analysis:

PFC Energy Iraq Advisory Service" :
,
energy.com> Objet : MIS
Memo - Iraq: Have Elections Made Stability More
Likely?

17/02/2005 15:41

Iraq: Have Elections Made Stability More Likely?

The January 30 assembly elections in Iraq further
cemented the control of Islamist Shia and Kurdish
groups in Iraq, and will put the role of Islam at
the center of the debate over the country's
constitutional future. Competition between and among
the different parties in the Transitional
National Assembly over government portfolios will be
worked out in the next couple of weeks, but it looks
as if the Prime Minister will be from the
victorious United Iraqi Coalition, while the President
will be a Kurd. Who comes to power and how that power
is distributed will be important for
long-term stability: the election highlighted the deep
political schisms that divide the country, and
maturity will be required from both the new
government and its Sunni and nationalist opponents who
lack significant representation in the new assembly if
national reconciliation is to be
achieved and the new institutions of state are to
enjoy broad legitimacy. This outcome is still far from
assured, and if both sides persist with
their hard-line, insular, no-concessions approach, the
insurgency will persist. The new government will also
face the challenge of meeting the
day-to-day needs of the Iraq public, something its
predecessor failed to do. If it does not, it could
quickly lose its aura of legitimacy, no
matter who is in power.

Major Change in the Political Balance of Power

Much as expected, the January 30 national elections in
Iraq confirmed the shift in the political balance of
power that has taken place since the fall
of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. Islamist
Shia and Kurdish parties, which formed the backbone of
the Iraqi opposition in exile and of the post-war
institutions established by the US-led Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA), cemented their grip on
power, winning over 75% of the seats in the new
Transitional National Assembly (TNA) between them.
While the Islamist Shia, who campaigned under the
banner of the United Iraqi Coalition (UIC), garnered
less of the vote than they initially claimed,
their 48% was sufficient under election rules to give
them an absolute majority of 140 seats in the 275-seat
parliament. Moreover, the UIC is joined by two smaller
Islamist Shia parties that ran independently,
including the National Independent Elites and Cadres
that is linked to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
While Sadr refused to join the UIC, it includes people
associated with the cleric, and both the Elites and
Cadres and the Kerbala-based Islamic Labour Movement
are likely to ally with the
it on key legislative issues, giving the Islamist Shia
a total of 145 TNA seats.

While this figure is sufficient to allow the UIC to
vote through new legislation on its own, it lacks the
two-thirds parliamentary majority it needs to choose
the new presidential council or form a government.
Thus, the group will be forced to seek alliances,
meaning that the next Iraqi government will be a
coalition. The UIC's most obvious partner is the
Kurdish Alliance, made up predominantly of the two
main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union for
Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party
(KDP). Benefiting from the extremely high turnout in
Iraq's Kurdish provinces (which exceeded 90%), the
Kurdish Alliance secured 26% of the national vote,
which translates into 75 seats; Kurdish Islamists
running separately also won two seats.

Shia-Kurdish Deal-Making Has Already Begun

Realizing that they would probably have to form a
coalition government, Islamist Shia leaders have been
in power-sharing talks with the Kurds since before the
elections took place; indeed, the two sides enjoy a
strategic partnership that goes back to their time in
opposition. However, now that the election results-and
the two sides' relative strength in the TNA-are
known, these talks have become more intense. How long
they take, and whether they are successful, will
depend to a large extent on the UIC's willingness to
make concessions on key appointments, including the
presidency and certain strategic ministries, but the
process should be completed by the end of February at
the latest.

As their majority is only just over 50%, the Islamist
Shia are in a weaker position than they probably hoped
to be, and are therefore more vulnerable
to Kurdish demands. Central among these is Kurdish
insistence that they must hold one of the two main
offices of state in the transitional government,
president or prime minister, and that the Transitional
Administrative Law (TAL) that governs the transition
phase-and which guarantees extensive Kurdish regional
autonomy and gives the Kurds a veto
on national legislation-must remain inviolate.

The UIC has already made it clear that it intends to
reserve the premiership for itself; but Kurdish list
leader and PUK head Jalal Talabani is in a strong
position to become Iraq's first Kurdish president. The
Kurds will also probably expect to retain the deputy
prime minister post they have now (the PUK's Barham
Salih could remain in that post, where he
oversees economic policy) as well as the Foreign
Ministry, where KDP member Hoshiyar Zibari has done a
good job since he was appointed in the first CPA
post-war cabinet in September 2003. Ironically, the
foreign affairs portfolio is no longer regarded as one
of the most strategic, with Defense, Interior,
Finance, Oil and Planning seen as far more important
as they control Iraq's security forces and its revenue
flows. Consequently, the UIC will probably be willing
to compromise with the Kurds allowing Zibari
to stay in place, while seeking to put Coalition
members into the other spots.

The success of the UIC-Kurdish Alliance talks will
depend to a large extent on how hard a bargain the
latter drives, particularly over the issue of
autonomy. Many Islamist Shia leaders, not to mention
their clerical supporters, are intensely distrustful
of Kurdish demands for administrative autonomy, and do
not support the eventual federation of Iraq,
acceptance of which is a sine qua non for Kurdish
participation in government. The two main Kurdish
parties are also keen to extend southwards the
geographic territory that they govern, with Kirkuk
seen as the ultimate prize, and they want to strike
quickly as they are in a stronger position now than
they have been in the last 80 years of Iraqi history.
The Kurdish victory in local elections in Kirkuk will
embolden the Kurdish Alliance further, and they may
seek at least tacit acceptance from the new government
for a de facto southward moving of the Kurdistan
Regional Government's boundary,
possibly to the Hamrin mountain range which already
marks the limit of Kurdish administrative and security
control.

The Islamist Shia may regard this as too high a price
to pay for a coalition government, especially as it
would be deeply unpopular throughout the rest of Iraq,
and the Kurds no longer have the United States and the
United Kingdom to support their demands as they did
during the CPA period. Under these circumstances, they
could turn to incumbent Prime Minister Iyad Allawi,
whose Iraqi list won a disappointing 40 seats in the
TNA. Relations between the two sides have been
strained since Allawi refused to join the UIC, but
nevertheless a deal could be worked out, especially
since the Islamist Shia would find it easier to
dominate the appointments process
if it joined with this weaker group, and it would
allow the UIC to adopt a much more ambiguous position
towards Kurdish federalism and the sanctity of
the TAL. Allawi's group may eventually be brought in
to a wider coalition anyway, unless he sees greater
political virtue in establishing himself as
the "loyal" opposition over the next phase.

Divisions and Competition Among Islamist Shia Parties

While a straight UIC-Iraqi list alliance could see
Allawi become president, he will not retain the
premiership. Who Iraq's next prime minister will
be, however, remains a matter of intense competition,
and one that is testing the cohesion of the UIC, which
is very much a coalition in reality as well as name.
Finance Minister and SCIRI official Adel Abd al-Mahdi
looked to be the front runner, but there are now
unconfirmed reports that he has dropped out in return
for unspecified political concessions (he was
always a reluctant candidate, and his candidacy may
have secured some plum positions for his party in the
new cabinet). If so, that leaves Vice President and
Dawa leader Ibrahim Jaafari and the great phoenix of
Iraqi post-war politics Ahmed Chalabi in the running.
The fractious Jaafari has been a divisive character in
the past, even among Islamist Shia, and has
not always enjoyed the best relations with Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's preeminent Shia cleric.
He would certainly not be London or Washington's first
choice; both have found him a difficult character to
deal with in the past. However, he is respected by
many Iraqis, especially for his performance as the
first of the rotating presidents of the Interim
Governing Council (IGC), and Dawa has consistently
claimed to have a legitimate claim to the post, given
his long history in opposition and its grass-roots
support in Iraq.

Chalabi has also pushed his claim to the premiership
hard, although he insistes he only put his name
forward at the urging of smaller parties
within the UIC. While he may claim the mantle of
secular champion, he has espoused a very explicit Shia
political agenda since he was sidelined by
the CPA in May of last year, and he has good ties to
SCIRI, who would probably rather see Chalabi than
Jaafari win out, especially if he gave the
party more concessions. However, Chalabi remains
extremely controversial in the eyes of many, and his
brief dalliance with Sadr during the height of
the latter's insurgency in Najaf and Kerbala in August
2004 did nothing to build public or political trust in
him. Moreover, he is universally disliked by most of
the Iraqi population, and by many of Iraq's neighbors.
Nevertheless, he is by far the best political operator
among the political elite and could threaten to tear
the UIC apart if he does not get his way. He also
enjoys close ties to Talabani, and the Kurdish leader
is likely to push his appointment over that of
Jaafari. Furthermore, Chalabi has the backing of
important neo-conservatives in Washington, including
some in the
NSC and Department of Defense.

If the contest over the premiership becomes too
divisive, a compromise candidate may yet emerge. The
most obvious at present is Hussein Shahrastani, the
former nuclear physicist and political prisoner under
Saddam who has developed a close relationship with
Sistani. However, Shahrastani lacks an independent
party or support base, and is a relative neophyte in
Iraqi politics, two weaknesses that are likely to
stand against him. One outsider for the post is former
Trade and Defense Minister Ali Allawi, who combines
political links with the administrative qualities to
lead the new government.

Can the New Elite Reach Out to the Old?

Ultimately, the outcome will be a grand political
bargain, whereby the presidency council (the president
and two deputy presidents), the premier
and possibly any deputy premiers are agreed as a
package. Selection to the cabinet could take longer,
as it is likely to involve a wider array of
groups from within the TNA, and may even bring in
other parties as well. A number of UIC and Kurdish
leaders have said that they will seek to encourage the
participation of Sunni and nationalist groups who
either boycotted the elections or failed to win seats
because of the very low Sunni turnout (among prominent
Sunni candidates, only President Ghazi
al-Yawer's mixed and secular Iraqiyyun list figured,
winning five seats).

Although national reconciliation is the key to Iraq's
stability in the long term, it remains to be seen
whether these conciliatory sentiments translate
into genuine action, and whether Islamist Shia and
Kurdish groups reach out beyond former exile fellow
travelers such as Yawer and Adnan Pachachi, who
are known quantities and largely unrepresentative of
the estranged Sunni and nationalist constituencies. It
is clear that there are a range of opinions within
both the Islamist Shia and the Kurdish camps over how
magnanimous the victors should be. Moderates such as
Abd al-Mahdi and Shahrastani have proposed that a
committee be set up with equal Sunni, Shia and Kurdish
representation to oversee, if not actually draft, the
new constitution, an idea that reportedly enjoys
Kurdish, and more importantly Sistani's backing. On
the other hand, hardliners including Chalabi and
senior members of SCIRI (such as Sheikh Jalal al-Din
al-Saghir) and Dawa are keen to use the election
outcome to revive and deepen de-Baathification, and to
root out members of the pre-war security forces who
have found their way back into the new structures.
Inevitably, the communities that would be hardest hit
by these policies would be precisely the Sunni and
nationalist ones that have felt most disenfranchised
since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, and who
provide at least tacit support for the insurgency.
Moreover, any such move would send a signal that
settling old scores remains more important that
focusing on a unified future.

If moderate voices in the government and the TNA win
out, outreach could be more extensive, but they will
need to overcome residual suspicion that they
are simply looking to build their own party bases
(which was Allawi's approach to "Sunni outreach"),
rather than seeking real national reconciliation. At
the same time, leaders of the Sunni and nationalist
opposition groups will need to change their
rejectionist mindsets and show they are willing to
reach a compromise and accept the legitimacy of
transition process and the newly established political
institutions, something that will be much more
difficult if hardliners are in charge.
Prospects for Stability in the Medium Term

Ultimately, it will be the level of political maturity
shown by each side that will determine more than
anything else whether the elections-and the
transition process they are part of-are a success.
Thus far, the record has not been good. The new
political oligarchy of former exile parties
have approached politics as a zero-sum game, focusing
on maximizing party-specific gains at the expense of
their rivals, and seeking to punish as much as
possible anyone associated with the ancien regime who
refuses to do their bidding. This approach will need
to change if the divisions in Iraqi politics,
reflected in the relatively low turnout of less than
60%, are to be overcome and the insurgency is to be
marginalized to a small group of extremists. The
elections were genuinely historic and the levels
of violence on the day were much lower than
anticipated, but Washington's argument that the
turnout figure was comparable with the best seen in
Western democracies and that therefore the new
government enjoys broad-based legitimacy is was
somewhat disingenuous. While some Iraqis
were undoubtedly put off by the threat of attacks,
others stayed away because they obeyed the boycott
call by Sunni and nationalist leaders or because they
felt estranged from the political process; and given
the composition of Iraq's population, not all these
no-shows can have been Sunnis. Violence has quickly
returned to pre-election levels, and the new
government and TNA are likely to remain suspect in the
eyes of a sizeable proportion of the population unless
it can demonstrate itself to be inclusive.

Ensuring that the broadest possible number of Iraqis
feel that they have a stake in the political process
will be particularly important for stability
because the TNA's main task over the coming months is
to write a permanent constitution that will determine
the future shape and nature of governance in Iraq, the
powers of central government and the extent to which
Islam becomes a defining feature of the state. All
these decisions will need to be the product of
national compromises if the document-and the
institutions it underpins-are to be regarded as
legitimate by most Iraqis, and therefore provide the
basis for long-term stability. The alternative is the
increasing marginalization of significant numbers of
Sunnis and nationalists, especially the UIC goes ahead
with efforts to give Islam a greater role in the
state, thereby providing fertile ground for extremists
bent of undermining the transition by force.

Can the New Government Deliver?

In addition to political maturity, the new government
will also need to deliver in a practical sense if
broad-based support for the transition is to be
bolstered. Both the CPA and Allawi's government
suffered in the eyes of the Iraqi public for their
failure to deliver in three crucial areas:
personal security, services (especially electricity)
and jobs. This has bred widespread discontent, and
unless the new administration can make quick progress
in some of these areas, the post-election public
euphoria that has been witnessed will quickly change
to anger. Allawi's honeymoon period lasted barely two
months, and there is nothing to indicate that this
new government will enjoy much more time.

If the insurgency cannot be brought under control, the
chances are that the new government will face all the
problems of its two predecessors, particularly on the
services front. Iraqi oil and electricity
infrastructure security remains woefully inadequate,
and attacks on both in Baghdad and the north west of
the country have continued apace. The security
environment has also made it difficult to attract any
foreign investment into either sector. The Kurds have
offered 10,000 of its Peshmarga forces to guard the
oil export pipeline and facilities in Kirkuk
and Mosul, but the central government is wary of the
initiative, fearing that it will set a precedent. Its
view may change if there is a Talabani-Chalabi
president-premier partnership, but it will take some
time for these forces to be really effective.

More generally, there remains the issue of the
politicization of different ministries post-elections,
and the impact that could have on their
administrative capabilities. The next government is
more likely to resemble the CPA Iraqi cabinet, where
ministerial portfolios were divided among
representatives of the IGC, rather than the Allawi
administration, which included fewer party figures and
more technocrats. The former saw the creation of party
fiefdoms in many ministries, and a concomitant rise in
corruption and inefficiency. The Oil Ministry was not
immune, with each of the major IGC parties seeking to
divert contracts (particularly on the oil
sales side) to favored customers and with senior
political figures trying to play a middle-man role in
the award of oil development contracts. If this
pattern is repeated, then the government's ability to
deliver what the public demands will be greatly
constrained.

Raad Alkadiri
Director
Markets & Countries Group
+1 202 721 0313

ralkadiri@pfcenergy.com


4) On Bush's Spinroom:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/20/arts/20rich.html?ex=1109307600&en=066a75b566d01bf4&ei=5070


The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show'

Published: February 20, 2005

HE prayers of those hoping that real television news
might take its cues from Jon Stewart were finally
answered on Feb. 9, 2005. A real newsman borrowed a
technique from fake news to deliver real news about
fake news in prime time.

Let me explain.

On "Countdown," a nightly news hour on MSNBC, the
anchor, Keith Olbermann, led off with a classic "Daily
Show"-style bit: a rapid-fire montage of sharply
edited video bites illustrating the apparent idiocy of
those in Washington. In this case, the eight clips
stretched over a year in the White House briefing room
- from February 2004 to late last month - and all
featured a reporter named "Jeff." In most of them, the
White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, says "Go
ahead, Jeff," and "Jeff" responds with a softball
question intended not to elicit information but to
boost President Bush and smear his political
opponents. In the last clip, "Jeff" is quizzing the
president himself, in his first post-inaugural press
conference of Jan. 26. Referring to Harry Reid and
Hillary Clinton, "Jeff" asks, "How are you going to
work with people who seem to have divorced themselves
from reality?"...


5) This protestor has guts -- I wish more people did:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-4810151,00.html

Protester Throws Shoe at Richard Perle

Friday February 18, 2005 3:46 PM
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI

Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Howard Dean, the newly minted
leader of the Democratic Party, and former Pentagon
adviser Richard Perle made clear their opposing views
on the war in Iraq during a debate marred by a
protester who tossed a shoe at Perle.

Perle had just started his comments Thursday when a
protester threw a shoe at him before being dragged
away, screaming, ``Liar! Liar!''

Perle, a Pentagon official during the Reagan
administration, was more recently chairman of the
Defense Policy Board, a group of non-government
experts who advise the defense secretary. He was a
major proponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq,
while Dean was among the war's most prominent
opponents....


6) Hariri Analysis (or why Syria probably had nothing
to do with it):

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1418516,00.html

Why 'Mr Lebanon' had many enemies

Diplomats doubt that Syria would kill its former ally
as evidence points to the billionaire being victim of
an 'ordinary bomb'

Peter Beaumont in London and Mitchell Prothero in
Beirut
Sunday February 20, 2005
The Observer

In death, the world feted Lebanon's former Prime
Minister, Rafiq Hariri, assasinated on Valentine's
Day. Obituaries spoke of a grand statesman and 'Mr
Lebanon'.

But in Beirut Hariri was hated and distrusted by many
in equal measure - not for his politics, but for his
controlling interest in the giant post-war Lebanese
reconstruction company Solidere, which has been
accused of carrying out forcible evictions, corruption
and wholesale political graft


7) It's good to see the situation of Iraqi women is so
much improved after "liberation":

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
Baghdad Burning
Riverbend

Yesterday, one of our neighbors stopped by the house.
She was carrying a hot plate of some green beans in a
tomato sauce. “Abu Ammar has some wonderful green
beans,” she confided. “But you have to tell him to
give you some of the ones he hides under the table-
the ones on display are a little bit chewy.” I added
green beans to the grocery list and headed off with E.
to Abu Ammar.

Our local grocer, Abu Ammar has a vegetable and fruit
stand set up about 400 m away from our house, on the
main street. He has been there for as long as anyone
can remember and although you would not know it to see
him, Abu Ammar is quite the entrepreneur. He wears a
traditional dishdasha all year round and on cold days,
a worn leather jacket and a black wool cap he pulls
down over his ears.

We, and almost every house on the street, buy our
groceries from him. He sets up his stand early in the
morning and when you pass it by at just the right
time, there’s a myriad of colors: the even brown of
potatoes, deep green of spinach, bright orange of
citrus fruits and the glossy red of sweet Iraqi
tomatoes… And Abu Ammar is almost always there- come
rain or sun or war, sitting in the midst of his
vegetables and fruits, going through a newspaper, a
cigarette in his mouth and crackling out of his little
transistor radio are the warm tones of Fayrouz. On
those rare occasions when Abu Ammar isn’t there, you
can tell something is very wrong.

Abu Ammar sat there in his usual place. I could tell
he was doing a crossword today because he kept making
marks on the newspaper. Abu Ammar rose to greet us and
handed me a few plastic bags so I could pick and
choose the vegetables I wanted. “I have some very good
lemons today,” he declared, tucking the newspaper
under his arm and pointing to a pyramid of small
greenish-yellow fruits. I wandered over to the lemons
and inspected them critically.

I feel like I have my finger on the throbbing pulse of
the Iraqi political situation every time I visit Abu
Ammar. You can often tell just how things are going in
the country from the produce available at his stand.
For example, when he doesn’t have any good tomatoes we
know that the roads to Basra are either closed or
really bad and the tomatoes aren’t getting through to
Baghdad. When citrus fruit isn’t available during the
winter months, we know that the roads to Diyala are
probably risky and oranges and lemons couldn’t be
delivered. He'll also give you the main news headlines
he picks up from various radio stations and if you
feel so inclined, you can read the headlines from any
one of the assorted newspapers lying in a pile near
his feet. Plus, he has all of the neighborhood gossip.

“Did you know Abu Hamid’s family are going to move?”
He took a drag from the cigarette and pointed with his
ballpoint pen towards a house about 100 m away from
his stand.
“Really?” I asked, turning my attention to the
tomatoes, “How did you hear?”
“I saw them showing the house to a couple last week
and then I saw them showing it again this week…
they’re trying to sell it.”

“Did you hear about the election results?” E. asked
Abu Ammar. Abu Ammar shook his head in the affirmative
and squashed his cigarette with a slippered foot.
“Well, we were expecting it.” He shrugged his
shoulders and continued, “Most Shia voted for list
169. They were blaring it out at the Husseiniya near
our house the night of the elections. I was there for
evening prayer.” A Husseiniya is a sort of mosque for
Shia. We had heard that many of them were campaigning
for list 169- the Sistani-backed list.

I shook my head and sighed. “So do you still think the
Americans want to turn Iraq into another America? You
said last year that if we gave them a chance, Baghdad
would look like New York.” I said in reference to a
conversation we had last year. E. gave me a wary look
and tried to draw my attention to some onions, “Oh
hey- look at the onions- do we have onions?”

Abu Ammar shook his head and sighed, “Well if we’re
New York or we’re Baghdad or we’re hell, it’s not
going to make a difference to me. I’ll still sell my
vegetables here.”

I nodded and handed over the bags to be weighed.
“Well… they’re going to turn us into another Iran. You
know list 169 means we might turn into Iran.” Abu
Ammar pondered this a moment as he put the bags on the
old brass scale and adjusted the weights.

“And is Iran so bad?” He finally asked. Well no, Abu
Ammar, I wanted to answer, it’s not bad for *you* -
you’re a man… if anything your right to several
temporary marriages, a few permanent ones and the
right to subdue females will increase. Why should it
be so bad? Instead I was silent. It’s not a good thing
to criticize Iran these days. I numbly reached for the
bags he handed me, trying to rise out of that sinking
feeling that overwhelmed me when the results were
first made public.

It’s not about a Sunni government or a Shia
government- it’s about the possibility of an
Iranian-modeled Iraq. Many Shia are also appalled with
the results of the elections. There’s talk of Sunnis
being marginalized by the elections but that isn’t the
situation. It’s not just Sunnis- it’s moderate Shia
and secular people in general who have been
marginalized.

The list is frightening- Da’awa, SCIRI, Chalabi,
Hussein Shahristani and a whole collection of pro-Iran
political figures and clerics. They are going to have
a primary role in writing the new constitution.
There’s talk of Shari’a, or Islamic law, having a very
primary role in the new constitution. The problem is,
whose Shari’a? Shari’a for many Shia differs from that
of Sunni Shari’a. And what about all the other
religions? What about Christians and Mendiyeen?

Is anyone surprised that the same people who came
along with the Americans – the same puppets who all
had a go at the presidency last year – are the ones
who came out on top in the elections? Jaffari,
Talbani, Barazani, Hakim, Allawi, Chalabi… exiles,
convicted criminals and war lords. Welcome to the new
Iraq.

Ibraheim Al-Jaffari, the head of the pro-Iran Da’awa
party gave an interview the other day. He tried very
hard to pretend he was open-minded and that he wasn’t
going to turn the once-secular Iraq into a
fundamentalist Shia state but the fact of the matter
remains that he is the head of the Da’awa party. The
same party that was responsible for some of the most
infamous explosions and assassinations in Iraq during
the last few decades. This is the same party that
calls for an Islamic Republic modeled like Iran. Most
of its members have spent a substantial amount of time
in Iran.

Jaffari cannot separate himself from the ideology of
his party.

Then there’s Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, head of the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He
got to be puppet president for the month of December
and what was the first thing he did? He decided
overburdened, indebted Iraq owed Iran 100 billion
dollars. What was the second thing he did? He tried to
have the “personal status” laws that protect
individuals (and especially women) eradicated.

They try to give impressive interviews to western
press but the situation is wholly different on the
inside. Women feel it the most. There’s an almost
constant pressure in Baghdad from these parties for
women to cover up what little they have showing.
There’s a pressure in many colleges for the
segregation of males and females. There are the
threats, and the printed and verbal warnings, and
sometimes we hear of attacks or insults.

You feel it all around you. It begins slowly and
almost insidiously. You stop wearing slacks or jeans
or skirts that show any leg because you don’t want to
be stopped in the street and lectured by someone who
doesn’t approve. You stop wearing short sleeves and
start preferring wider shirts with a collar that will
cover up some of you neck. You stop letting your hair
flow because you don’t want to attract attention to
it. On the days when you forget to pull it back into a
ponytail, you want to kick yourself and you rummage
around in your handbag trying to find a hair band…
hell, a rubber band to pull back your hair and make
sure you attract less attention from *them*.

We were seriously discussing this situation the other
day with a friend. The subject of the veil and hijab
came up and I confessed my fear that while they might
not make it a law, there would be enough pressure to
make it a requirement for women when they leave their
homes. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well women
in Iran will tell you it’s not so bad- you know that
they just throw something on their heads and use
makeup and go places, etc.” True enough. But it wasn’t
like that at the beginning. It took them over two
decades to be able to do that. In the eighties, women
were hauled off the streets and detained or beaten for
the way they dressed.

It’s also not about covering the hair. I have many
relatives and friends who wore a hijab before the war.
It’s the principle. It’s having so little freedom that
even your wardrobe is dictated. And wardrobe is just
the tip of the iceberg. There are clerics and men who
believe women shouldn’t be able to work or that they
shouldn’t be allowed to do certain jobs or study in
specific fields. Something that disturbed me about the
election forms was that it indicated whether the voter
was ‘male’ or ‘female’- why should that matter? Could
it be because in Shari’a, a women’s vote or voice
counts for half of that of a man? Will they implement
that in the future?

Baghdad is once more shrouded in black. The buildings
and even some of the houses have large black pieces of
cloth hanging upon them, as if the whole city is
mourning the election results. It’s because of
“Ashoura” or the ten days marking the beginning of the
Islamic New Year but also marking the death of the
Prophet’s family 1400+ years ago in what is now known
as Karbala. That means there are droves of religious
Shia dressed in black from head to foot (sometimes
with a touch of green or red) walking in the streets
and beating themselves with special devices designed
for this occasion.

We’ve been staying at home most of the time because
it’s not a good idea to leave the house during these
ten days. It took us an hour and 20 minutes to get to
my aunt’s house yesterday because so many streets were
closed with masses of men chanting and beating
themselves. To say it is frightening is an
understatement. Some of the men are even bleeding and
they wear white to emphasize all the blood flowing
down backs and foreheads. It’s painful to see small
children wearing black clothes and carrying miniature
chains that really don’t hurt, but look so bizarre.

Quite frankly, it’s disgusting. It’s a quasi political
show of Sadomasochism that has nothing to do with
religion. In Islam it’s unfavorable to hurt the human
body. Moderate Shia also find it appalling and
slightly embarrassing. E. teases the Shia cousin
constantly, “So this your idea of a good time, ha?”
But the cousin is just is revolted, although he can’t
really express it. We’re so “free” now, it’s not good
idea to publicly express your distaste to the whole
bloody affair. I can, however, express it on my blog…

We’ve also heard of several more abductions and now
assassinations. They say Badir’s Brigade have come out
with a new list of ‘wanted’… but dead, not alive. It’s
a list of mainly Sunni professors, former army
generals, doctors, etc. Already there have been three
assassinations in Saydiyeh, an area that is a mix of
Sunnis and Shia. They say Badir’s Brigade people broke
into the house and gunned down the families. This
assassination spree is, apparently, a celebration of
the election results.

It’s interesting to watch American politicians talk
about how American troops are the one thing standing
between Sunnis and Shia killing each other in the
streets. It looks more and more these days like that’s
not true. Right now, during all these assassinations
and abductions, the troops are just standing aside and
letting Iraqis get at each other. Not only that, but
the new army or the National Guard are just around to
protect American troops and squelch any resistance.

There was hope of a secular Iraq, even after the
occupation. That hope is fading fast.


8) On Apocalyptic Alliances:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/540774.html

Getting tight with the Bible Belt
By Nathan Guttman

WASHINGTON - MK Benny Elon (National Union) invests
more time and effort than perhaps any other Israeli in
nurturing the relationship with Evangelical Christians
in the U.S. As minister of tourism during the
intifada, Elon promoted visits by Evangelical churches
to Israel, and he continues to attend their
conferences and speak out against diplomatic
compromise on the Land of Israel....







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