Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer logistics, and more on summer politics

The weather in Baghdad is painfully hot. And the constant struggle with daily life logistics is depleting by energy reserves.
I tried so many times to hold a pen or touch the keyboard but I couldn't finish even one coherent paragraph although there's no lack of ideas or events…it's frustrating but, I'm trying to force myself to accept it because there are still two more months to go before the annual visit of hell to Baghdad ends.

These months have been the worst in electricity supplies ever. We're getting an average of one hour per day of electricity from the grid. The last time we had such hour was three days ago! And I assume some of you are familiar now with what it takes to maintain those small generators we use at home.
And it just gets worse; my internet connection has been down for 10 days now and the backup connection is having some mysterious problem with all google-based services including of course blogspot and gmail which are indispensable to me.

I'll borrow a few lines from an Iraqi journalist I forgot his name to put it shortly. This is what he said describing life in Baghdad summer "people in normal places wake up in the morning feeling they had enough rest to start a new day. Here we wake up feeling as tired as people do when they return home from work"

But I digress….

Let's move to some serious topics but first of all I want to suggest a moment of silence to honor the souls of the innocent victims of Yesterday's terrorist attack in Emirli and other attacks elsewhere in Iraq…thank you.

On the political front there are some interesting developments. You probably heard about the message Maliki sent yesterday to the Sadr movement demanding they clarify their position from the violent elements among their followers. It wasn't as tough a message as we were hoping but it's still an interesting step that broke the fear barrier that Maliki put between himself and Sadr.

In fact it seems that this statement is part of government plan to weaken Sadr's position through public frank statements.
On Saturday there was a demonstration in Nasiriyah against militias. The governor called for the demonstrations and the tribes answered the call and took to the streets demanding rule of law and limiting the use of arms to the forces of the government only.
Not long before that there was a similar and larger demonstration in Babil demanding the same thing. The attitude in Babil is remarkably good in this respect. Sadr's militiamen and aides are often targeted by local police. In my opinion the local government in this province is one of the most realistic ones we have. They were the only local government that refused plans for security handover and explained straightforward that the local ISF was not ready yet to handle security in the province. Unlike others who rushed like fools to assume security responsibility while they know they don't have enough tools to do so. That's if not they did that on purpose, I can't tell.

Before I forget I think it's also worth mentioning that Al-Sabah-for the first time in over a year-mentioned the Mahdi army by the name in its report on clashes in Diwaniyah, Samawa and Basra in the south.

These are all signs of change in attitude but they can't be considered a true change unless magnitude and frequency increase significantly in the little time Iraq has to show that tangible progress is being made.

In earlier posts we talked about the attempt by the four main Kurdish and Shia parties to establish some sort of "moderate front".
These days another initiative to improve power sharing is emerging, apparently an idea endorsed by Talabani since he's been speaking enthusiastically about it more than he did about the moderate front idea.

The idea is basically about forming a coalition of individual leaders at the level of presidency and premiership. Talabani called it the "3+1" formula to distinguish it from the "2+2" formula for parliamentary rearrangement.
The concept is simply to give the two vice presidents, president and PM more or less equal voice power when dealing with critical decisions. The constitutional foundations for such arrangement are ambiguous but maybe that's not a big problem at this point, after all the constitution itself is going to be subject for several amendments.

The "3+1" idea is somewhat attractive; these four men are arguably among the most moderate (relatively) leaders in their respective parties and so if they can actually make this deal for sharing executive authority then perhaps they will be able to make a difference.
In my opinion it could be easier to make Abdul Mahdi and Hashimi for example agree on something that if we had Hakim and Duleimi. And at this point there could be a good chance for that the former couple to become more influential in their parties than the latter as Hakim fell sick and Duleimi is about to be ousted from leading the Accord Front.

And yes, I heard about the CBS report and I doubt its accuracy for more than one reason. But I didn't follow any news today so I'm not aware whether there have been updates; anyway the 15th of July is only a week from now.

That's all for now…

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