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:
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.
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: