Tuesday, December 20, 2011

General Strike Meeting, Occupy Long Beach Needs People, Iraq Tension Builds

--  Occupy Long Beach, General Strike Meeting, Iraq
December 20th, 2011 
Yesterday evening I went to my first Occupy Long Beach General Assembly in a long time. I wanted to announce the meeting tonight 12/20/11 at La Placita Church 7:30 pm tonight for the May Day General Strike committee. Some persons expressed interest in going, this is the time to get involved and help determine the direction of the General Strike for Southern California. Contact me at Garyrumor2@yahoo.com if you want to carpool from Long Beach, CA. 

I was impressed with the businesslike manner in which the GA was held. People seemed to want to get on with the projects at hand rather than grandstanding as often happens in these kind of assemblies. 

The main problem in Long Beach seems to be lack of participation by the community as a whole. The Occupy movement seems to have fallen in numbers to the hard core of activists and students. This will have to change if the Long Beach movement is to grow. I would suggest that they develop some institutional changes to allow this. One reason the numbers have declined in my mind is the unwieldy nature of the decision making process. Consensus works for small groups, like what they have now, 20 or so persons. But for hundreds, it is simply not the easiest process, and demands very strict adherence to protocols if anything is to be done at all. This discipline I saw in Long Beach, the question is, will the switch to democratic decision making as they grow larger again or stick to consensus? They have a fairly stable inner cadre, now the question is will they expand again as winter turns to spring, or become another cult like leftist grouplet? 

The meeting was mostly made up of reports from committees, of which there are probably too many for the number of people involved. The same 3 or 4 persons seemed to be on almost all the committees. I felt the urge to help out, they especially need outreach people, legal support and financial support. I am particularly impressed with the quality of the graphics on several of the internet posters I have seen. They don't seem to manage to get much into print though. 


International News has shifted from the Euro to the Middle East again with Egypt on the edge of exploding and Iraq facing a renewal of the civil war only days after the US troops removed. The situation in Iraq is largely dependent upon Iran. If they pressure the Maliki government to tone down the repression, they will need something from the west, mainly backing off on Syria and Iranian nuclear programs. As this is unlikely to happen, renewed warfare in Iraq may be the consequence. This might lead to the ironic situation of the USA backing the Baathists in Iraq against the Shiites. Certainly Saudi Arabia cannot be looking at this situation with anything other than horror. Will the US retain troops in Kuwait as a buffer or return to Iraq? That would certainly not be a popular move although the Obama administration did not want to leave Iraq to begin with.


From the New York Times

Arrest Order for Sunni Leader in Iraq Opens New Rift


Published: December 19, 2011 

BAGHDAD — A day after the United States withdrew its last combat troops, Iraq faced a dangerous political crisis Monday as the Shiite-dominated government ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice president, accusing him of running a death squad that assassinated police officers and government officials. 

On Monday, Iraqi television showed bodyguards for Mr. Hashimi confessing to running death squads and planting bombs. 

The sensational charges drew a worried response from Washington and brought Iraq's tenuous partnership government to the edge of collapse. A major Sunni-backed political coalition said its ministers would walk off their jobs, leaving adrift agencies that handle Iraq's finances, schools and agriculture. 

The accusations against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi also underlined fears that Iraq's leaders may now be using the very institutions America has spent millions of dollars trying to strengthen — the police, the courts, the media — as a cudgel to batter their political enemies and consolidate power. 

On Monday night, Mr. Hashimi was in the northern semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, beyond the reach of security forces controlled by Baghdad. It was unclear when — or if — he would return to Baghdad. 

In Washington, where officials have been quietly celebrating the end of the war, Obama administration officials sounded alarmed about the arrest order for Mr. Hashimi. "We are talking to all of the parties and expressed our concern regarding these developments," said Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman. "We are urging all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process." 

The breakdown in relations between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and Mr. Hashimi and his Iraqiya Party arrived at an inopportune moment for the administration, coming so close to the troop withdrawal. American officials have spent years trying to urge Iraq's Shiite-dominated government to work with the country's Sunni minority, and are wary of having things fall apart now. 

To government critics, the charges seemed to be part of a wide-reaching consolidation of power by Mr. Maliki. Amid the anxiety stirred by the American departure and unrest in neighboring Syria, Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, has tightened his grip on this violent and divided nation by marginalizing, intimidating or arresting his political rivals, many of whom are part of Iraq's Sunni minority. 

Hundreds of people have been swept up over the last two months in arrests aimed at former members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party. In recent weeks, security forces also arrested at least 30 people connected to a former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite and caustic critic of Mr. Maliki, according to Mr. Allawi's office. And on Sunday, Mr. Maliki asked Parliament to issue a vote of no confidence in his own deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni prone to hyperbole who had compared Mr. Maliki to a dictator in an interview. 

"Any leading Sunni politician seems now to be a target of this campaign by Maliki," said Reidar Visser, an expert on Iraqi politics. "It seems that every Sunni Muslim or secularist is in danger of being labeled either a Baathist or a terrorist." 

Mr. Hashimi has not often been described as either. Sometimes abrasive and always self-interested, he was one of the first Sunni leaders to embrace the political process after the American invasion, and lost three siblings to terrorist attacks during the height of the sectarian war. 

"He was someone who tried to be conciliatory with the Shiite Islamists at a time when others did not do so," Mr. Visser said. "Now, Maliki is going after him." 

Any resolution seems a distant hope. The Iraqiya coalition, a large political bloc led by Mr. Allawi that includes Mr. Hashimi, Mr. Mutlaq and many other prominent Sunnis, stopped attending sessions of Parliament on Saturday. On Monday, there were not enough lawmakers to reach a quorum, so Parliament was adjourned until Jan. 3. 

On Monday night, Iraqiya members called for the president of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, to intervene and reprise a role the Kurds played in bringing together discordant factions and helping to resolve the long stalemate that collapsed after last year's national elections. 

The recent tumult has put Baghdad's political elite on edge. 

Inside the concrete-ringed Green Zone, the heart of Iraq's government and home to the American Embassy, Iraqi Army tanks and Humvees have proliferated. Freshly reinforced platoons of soldiers are standing guard over intersections, and security forces have pushed to the edge of the compounds of Mr. Hashimi and other Sunni leaders. 

"It's crisis after crisis," Mr. Mutlaq, the deputy prime minister, said in an interview. "None of the political parties want Maliki to be in this position anymore, but Maliki is controlling everything. Through his police, his army, his security measures. Everyone is afraid." 



From Guardian.uk

Sunni leaders warn of sectarian chaos in Iraq

Duleimi sheikhs claim marginalised Sunnis now have little input into affairs of state in post-US Iraq

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 20 December 2011 14.39 EST

Two leading members of Iraq's largest and most powerful Sunni tribe have warned of imminent sectarian chaos in the wake of the US withdrawal, claiming that the government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is promoting an anti-Sunni agenda.

The sheikhs, leaders of the highly influential Duleimi tribe, both insist that Sunnis have been increasingly marginalised over the past year to the point where they now have little input into affairs of state in post-US Iraq.

Their warnings come as Iraq's vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, defended himself over claims in an arrest warrant issued for him that he had used his guards to act as hit squads to target political rivals and had ordered a recent car bombing near the Iraqi parliament.

The dramatic allegations against one of the highest ranking Sunni figures in government have sharply raised the stakes in Iraq. The crisis risks unravelling a fragile power-sharing deal among Shia, Sunni and Kurdish blocs that have struggled to overcome tensions since sectarian slaughter drove Iraq to the edge of civil war in the years after Saddam Hussein fell in 2003.

Senior Iraqi politicians have been holding talks with Maliki and other leaders to contain the dispute.

On Monday the president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan regional government, called for dialogue among the different parties.

"We call for a national political conference urgently to prevent the political process from collapsing and exposing the country to uncalled consequences," Barzani said in a statement.

The unravelling domestic scene is in stark contrast to the portrait painted by US commanders of a representative government that has found its feet after almost nine years of war.

The claims about Hashimi, made on state television, which aired the alleged confessions of three of his guards, have inflamed already high tensions between Sunni politicians and the Shia-led government of Maliki, which last week ordered a second prominent Sunni figure, deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, to stay away from parliament.

The Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc, which has 91 seats in the 325-seat parliament, has flagged a boycott from the legislature by many of its members. Three Sunni provinces have made unilateral declarations of autonomy.

Palash Biswas
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