Iraq Watch: New Iraqi President and Vice President, New US Ambassador, Iraqi Leaders Call for Anti-Occupation Demonstration

Occupation Watch Website Redesigned, New Iraqi President and Vice Presidents Chosen, U.S. appoints new Ambassador to Iraq, Iraqi Leaders Call for Demonstration Against the Occupation

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Occupation Watch Website Redesigned

The Occupation Watch website has been restructured into a news and information resource focusing on the U.S./coalition occupation of Iraq. Every day, they will be posting a selection of the most significant English-language news articles on the site, along with personal accounts from Iraqi blogs, human rights reports, and more. The newly relaunched site is being directed by noted author and activist Rahul Mahajan. The site features links to commentary, in-depth analytical pieces, scholarly articles, and useful background information, as well as weekly in-house analysis on the evolving situation.

New Iraqi Speaker

The National Assembly has elected a new speaker, Hajim al-Hassani. A Sunni, Hassani was chosen by the Kurdish and Shi’a parties in order to placate Sunni Arabs. The post of speaker is a high profile but largely powerless position. Hassani has spent a considerable amount of time outside Iraq, having spent twelve years working in Los Angeles for an investment firm. Following that, Hassani returned to Iraq to become minister of industry for the interim government. In that capacity he led the privatization program which announced on March 21 a change in Iraq’s investment law, allowing foreign investors to enter the Iraqi securities market and own up to 49% of publicly listed companies. Hassani provoked anger from many of his Sunni co-religionists when he tacitly backed the US-led assault on Falluja late in 2004. This was in spite of the fact that his party, the Iraqi Islamist Party, resigned from the government due to the assault.

New Iraqi President and Vice Presidents Chosen

After a considerable delay, three men have been selected as the new president and vice presidents of Iraq. As expected, the three posts were split which one of each being given to a representative of the three main religious or ethnic groups in Iraq. Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is now President; Shiite Islamist Adel Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is one vice president while Sunni interim president Ghazi al-Yawir is the other VP.

Talabani has a long and varied past having been part of several organizations and political parties. According to an interview on Democracy Now with veteran journalist Dilip Hiro:

“(Jalal Talabani) was born in 1934 in a place in Kurdistan called [Kelkan], and he trained as a lawyer. He went to Baghdad University, joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which was then run by Mustafa Barzani, a tribal Islamic leader, and then fell out with him, with Barzani, Sr., and actually went over to work with the government in Baghdad. Then after quite few twists and turns in 1975, he again, he briefly joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party, then left to go and live in Beirut, and when he was in Beirut in the mid-1970s, he came under the influence of George Habash, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, P.F.L.P., who was a Marxist leader. And he then in 1976 set up along with others Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the P.U.K., which actually described itself as a Marxist-Leninist organization. And that is the organization of which he had been a leader. He has changed sides so often that I think it would be very boring for me to go through each twist and turn….. Finally, I notice that he is being described as a greater leader who fought Saddam Hussein. I can tell you, Amy, that after this 1991 Gulf War, when there were uprising of Kurds which was suppressed by Saddam’s regime, he then later on went to head a Kurdish delegation, and in June 1991, actually, they made a deal with Saddam Hussein, and I have a picture of him, Jalal Talabani, kissing the cheeks of Saddam Hussein. That picture appears in my book, Desert Shield, Desert Storm. Anybody can check it out. So, he is being described as a greater leader. Basically, he is, to put it simply, an opportunist.”

Also in that same Democracy Now broadcast, author and activist Antonia Juhasz described vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi, who served previously as the finance minister, as a proponent of privatizing Iraq’s oil resources.

“(Mahdi) announced, in a press conference while in DC, negotiations on a new oil law for Iraq that he said would be very good for US Oil companies that would look at privatization of the oil. And he also talked about all of the economic reforms that he had put into place to fundamentally shift Iraq from a state controlled economy to an economy completely open to foreign investment, free trade, and the like. He wasn’t elected president, and won’t be prime minister, however remaining in a key leadership post makes it very likely at a minimum that he will continue to work, try to work to push all of those economic reforms. Just to also be clear, he is in the position to keep doing that for one simple reason which is that the Bremer orders, those economic changes, stay in effect unless they are specifically overturned by the new national assembly, meaning they did continue. They continue on unless they’re specifically overturned. And Mahdi will be in a position to see those move forward. He is definitely somebody who is very much supported by the Bush administration, and has continually expressed his commitment to US corporations.”

U.S. appoints new Ambassador to Iraq

The Bush Administration has appointed former ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, to be the new ambassador to Iraq. Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, immigrated to the United States and began working for the U.S. government in 1984 in the State department. In 1988 he moved over to Defense Department, then under Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. In 1992, he was the author of the Defense Planning Guidance. This paper was one of the earlier articulations of the Neo–con philosophy of aggressive world military dominance by the United States. In 1995, he wrote a book entitled From Containment to Global Leadership, again pushing the neo-conservative agenda of extending U.S. power all around the world. During the 1990s Khalilzad was a consultant to Unocal, which at a time was negotiating with the then Taliban government for rights to conduct a pipeline across that country. When George W. Bush became president in 2000, Khalilzad became prominent as a National Security Council member.

Iraqi Leaders Call for Demonstration Against the Occupation

According to Al-Jazeera, Iraqi leaders have called for a mass demonstration against the US-led troop presence to coincide with the second anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government. Both Shia and Sunni leaders called on their congregations to rally in Firdus Square on Saturday in central Baghdad. Firdus Square is the location where U.S. troops staged the pulling down of a statue of Saddam Hussein which became the iconic media moment for the initial invasion. Said Shaikh Abd al-Zahra al-Suwaidi, a supporter of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr:

“To mark the anniversary of the start of the occupation, I call on all Iraqis to demonstrate tomorrow in Firdus Square where Saddam’s statue was toppled.” “The rally must be peaceful. You should demand the withdrawal of the occupation forces and press for quicker trials for Saddam Hussein and his aides before an Iraqi court.”

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org