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Iraq

Final results of the 2018 elections in Iraq: no real winner

Final results of the 2018 elections in Iraq: no real winner

The results may be disappointing to Iraqi politicians, but it is a positive sign for the process. To form a government, they must work together to form a governing coalition, and the results show that there is no king maker.

Here is what we know about the requirements and about the results: available seats 329, post-election coalition with 165 seats or more will be tasked by the president to form a government. The final results are as follows:

Ranking
Political group
Number of Seats
1
Sa’iroun (Tahaluf, Sadr)
54 * *
2
Al-Fath (Tahaluf, Amiri)
47 * *
3
Al-Nasr (Itilaf, Abadi)
42 * * *
4
Dawlat al-Qanun (Itilaf, Maliki)
26 * *
5
Hizb Dimuqrati Kurdistani
25 * *
6
Al-Wataniya (Itilaf, Allawi)
21 *
7
Al-Hikma (Tayyar, al-Hakim)
20 * * *
Other smaller parties
94 *5, *3
Total
329

The block with the largest number of seats is not guaranteed constitutional right to form the government, unless the block secures 165 seats. Like last round of elections, no single pre-election coalition had secured a majority. Now leaders of the various coalitions must enter into negotiations to form post-elections super-coalitions that consists of at least 165 seats. Since Sadr seems to have a veto on Amiri and Maliki, he must be prepared to accommodate all the other major pre-elections coalitions to form the governing coalition (see green * asterisks). The winner of the second largest number of seats, Amiri’s, has almost a similar path to forming the governing coalition (See red * asterisks). It must be noted that, Shia led pre-elections coalitions can form a government on their own with 189 seats (See *).

A Kurdish referendum, now, is counterproductive

A Kurdish referendum, now, is counterproductive

There is no doubt that the Kurdish people, like any other ethnic and linguistic community of their size, have a legitimate claim to self-determination. The Kurdish people in all five countries where they have a sizable population and in the diaspora, are more than 35 million people. Were they able to form a nation of their own right after the end of the colonial era, their country would have been the third most populous country in the region. But the powers to be did not allow that to happen. Their claim to nationhood still stands as a legitimate one.

However, the timing of the referendum, the lack of preparation for it in terms of diplomatic support, and the special circumstances of the region all made this decision a very poor one. It may have been motivated by personal impulses than by the urgency to secure the rights of the Kurdish people.
  
Masoud Barzani, the main proponent of the referendum, is an echo from Saddam’s era. His term in office ended years ago yet he persists to hold power. The regional government has had serious economic challenges and without Turkey’s eagerness to buy energy directly from the regional government, bypassing the central Iraqi government, the Kurdish economy would have collapsed two years ago. 
Since ISIS took over large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria in 2014, Kurdish fighters, with the help of anti-ISIS coalitions, pushed back ISIS only to claim the cleared territory as their own. This alone diminishes from the appeal of self-determination claim that the Kurds have asserted because it makes them appear as an aggressive expansionist regime that is willing to take advantage of the dire situation in Iraq and Syria.

The expansion, is bad public relation statement and shortsighted. Evidently, the newly acquired territories bring with it non-Kurdish populations, Arab, Turkmen, Persian, Armenian, etc. who will be made minorities dominated by a government that privileges and prioritizes Kurdish nationalism—creating new fault lines for protracted conflicts.
Kurdish political leaders ought to learn from the case of South Sudan. Prior to the division of Sudan, the conflict was made to appear as a conflict between the Muslim north and the Christian south, the Arab north and the African south. Since independence, the civil war in South Sudan became worse and the economic conditions of the landlocked territory became dire. Similarly, a landlocked Kurdistan in northern Iraq will make life for Kurds in the other four countries harder, and the potential civil war within Kurdistan in Iraq will increase. Turkey, by virtue of being home to the largest number of Kurds in the region will choke the Kurdish enclave and treat its own Kurdish population with even more hostility.
It is one thing to be supportive of disempowered communities and stand by any people who seek a life where they can live with dignity and respect. But Masoud Barzani used the Kurdish dream for self-determination to make a reckless decision that will, without doubt, make life for all Kurds harder and their fight for a better life even more costly. He failed to win the support of a single influential nation and made it harder for NGO’s and activists to continue their support of the Kurdish people. It is unfortunate that one man, whose term in office has run long ago, has risked the dream of so all, the Kurds, including those outside Iraq.

Why are Western governments angered by those who compare the military campaigns in Mosul and Aleppo?

Why are Western governments angered by those who compare the military campaigns in Mosul and Aleppo?


Charred bodies of ISIL fighters suggest abuse
Over the last weekend of the month of November, Russian military leaders reacted to Western criticism of Russia’s support to the Syrian government to retake eastern Aleppo from armed groups. They countered by accusing the U.S. and its allies of double standard. They suggested, essentially, that what the Syrian government is doing in Aleppo is not any different from what the Iraqi government is doing in Mosul. On Monday November 1, the State Department “slammed Moscow’s comparison”, calling it “ludicrous” and “insulting.” Curiously, it was actually a Western media outlet, The Independent (see below), from UK, that first made the comparison on October 21, in one of its lead stories, Compare the coverage of Mosul and East Aleppo and it tells you a lot about the propaganda we consume.
Explaining the reasons the U.S. administration felt that such a comparison is insulting, State Department spokesman John Kirby said: 

“I mean, in Aleppo you’ve got the regime laying siege to a city with the support of their biggest backer, Russia. In Mosul you have an entire coalition of some 66 nations who have planned for months, so with the vast support and legitimacy of the international community, to retake a city from Daesh over a period of months in support of Iraqi Security Forces.”

It must be noted that, anticipating Western criticism, Russia had suspended its airstrikes on the city of Aleppo weeks before the Syrian government forces and their allies started their operation in east Aleppo. The Russian military insisted that it had halted its airstrikes in early October, “to allow civilians to leave the city through six humanitarian corridors established by the Syrian government.”
Resisting the comparison is purely political as it serves no real purpose in terms of ending the tragedy the Syrian and Iraqi peoples have endured in the last five years. Those who reject the comparison are also behind the selective use of violent armed groups to achieve political goals. There is no doubt that both the Iraqi and Syrian peoples are subjected to horrific conditions, most of which are not of their own doing. Their suffering is the direct outcome of activities by regional and global powers who are using destabilizing these two countries to pursue geopolitical and economic interests.
The comparison is sound, and it should unite all thse countries who claim concern for the Syrian people to focus on ending this crisis. The comparison of the situations in Mosul and Aleppo has merits. Here is why.
Aleppo                                                              ||     Mosul
________________________________________________________________________
* Used to be the largest city in Syria                 || * Used to be the second largest city in Iraq
* Inhabited by predominantly Sunni Muslims   || * Inhabited by predominantly Sunni Muslims
* Taken over by predominantly Salafi militants || * Taken over by predominantly Salafi militants
* Being recaptured by government forces and    || *Being recaptured by government forces and  
allies including,                                                   || allies including,
# Syrian military units                                          || # Iraq military units
# Syrian security and police units                         || # Iraq security and police units
# Shia paramilitary units                                        || # Shia paramilitary units
# Palestinian paramilitary units                              || # Turkman paramilitary units
# Tribal paramilitary units                                     || # Tribal paramilitary units
# Kurdish paramilitary units                                   || # Kurdish paramilitary units
# Foreign governments’ military units                    || # Foreign governments’ military units
(authorized by the UN recognized Syrian            || (authorized by the UN Iraqi government)
Government                                                          ||
* Nusra and its allied control 225,000 civilians      || * ISIL controls 1,200,00 civilians in the city
in the city of Aleppo                                             || of Mosul
* US coalition not authorized by Syrian                || * US coalition authorized by the Iraqi government
government                                                           || but Russia not authorized by Iraqi government
* Civilians used as human shields by armed group || * Civilians used as human shields by ISIL
* Civilians are killed in the operation                      || * Civilians are killed in the operation    
* All sides might have violated international laws || * All sides might have violated international laws
governing armed conflicts                                     || governing armed conflicts
===================================================
The only difference between the Iraqi and Syrian situations is that, while there is a consensus among most world governments to support the Iraqi government retake its cities from terrorists, a handful of governments including current U.S. administration, the French government, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, have committed themselves to overthrowing Bashar Assad by any means necessary, including the use of al-Qaeda derivatives to achieve that main objective. It is this political goal, and nothing else, that is prolonging the carnage in Syria, which is, now, having some affect on neighboring countries.
_____________________________________________
Headlines reacting to comparing Mosul to Aleppo:

Will Russia react to Idlib’s incident the same way the U.S. reacted to Fallujah’s?

Will Russia react to Idlib’s incident the same way the U.S. reacted to Fallujah’s?


The similarities between two events–one took place in Idlib (Syria) on July 31, 2016 and the other happened March 31, 2004 in Fallujah (Iraq)–are eerie. It is reminder of the connections between the two conflicts. Syria’s is a direct result of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The Fallujah incident, Americans killed, dragged in the streets, and charred bodies hand on a bridge was shocking. But being under shock from seeing the grisly images is not the proper state of mind for launching a military operation. Yet, that is exactly what President Bush and his Secretary of Defense did when they ordered operation Vigilant Resolve.
Russia does not have 150,000 troops on the ground, but it has the power to bomb every town and city under the control of al-Nusra and increase its assistance to the Syrian army. 
Two days after the incident, Russian leaders did not indicate that they will seek revenge and launch new operations, though they are likely to increase the level of support to the Syrian government. 
Moreover, al-Nusra, now re-branded as Jabhat Fath al-Sham, the group that controls the area where the plane was shot down, has enjoyed protection and support from Turkey. With Erdogan scheduled to meet Putin next week, Russia does not see the need to take actions, it may use the incident to force Erdogan to drop his support to al-Nusra and its allies in Jaysh al-Fath and actually start fighting terrorism.
The same way Fallujah changed the direction of the war in Iraq, Idlib, too, will change the direction of the war in Syria. 

The truth is the first and last victim of wars

The truth is the first and last victim of wars

Considering the utterly conflicting reports about a single strike, not a battle or a war, it becomes evident that a truthful narrative about war is elusive and indistinguishable from propaganda. This fact was underscored in the wildly divergent reports about a single attack on ISIL’s fighters fleeing the recently liberated city of Fallujah. In the end, the only fact about which we can be certain is this: “Airstrikes destroyed ISIL’s vehicles and killed fighters in a convoy leaving Fallujah.” Nothing else reported by even the most reputable news outlets can be ascertained. The event seems to be the same, since the video released by both sides appear to be the same (see below); yet, the details are radically different.
We cannot be sure if U.S. coalition or Iraqi armed forces carried out the attack.

We cannot be sure if the U.S. refused to carry out the attack as requested by the Iraqi armed forces.

We cannot be sure if the U.S. offered ISIL safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if Iraqi forces offered ISIL fighters safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if the Popular Mobilization Forces offered ISIL safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if ISIL convoy consisted of 40 or 700 vehicles.

We cannot be certain if 175 or 250 ISIL fighters were killed.

We cannot be certain if the convoy consisted of only fighters or fighters and their family members.

Yet, all those claims were made and reported in different news outlet. Western media gave credit to the U.S. coalition while Iraqi media gave credit to Iraqi forces. The sample below speaks to the state of journalism and media in times of conflict.
CNN, U.S. media
Ajel; Iraqi media
Alarabiyya; Saudi Media

Nile24; Egyptian media

Nahrain; Iraqi media

RussiaToday, Russian media

ShafaqNews; Iranian media

ShafaqNews Iranian media

SkyIraq, Iarqi media
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