Saturday, April 26, 2014

Save Net Neutrality

Gabriel Black (WSWS) reports:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to propose new rules for the Internet that will allow companies to pay money to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in exchange for preferential treatment. The move heralds a new age of the Internet in which large corporations will spend money to have their websites delivered via faster channels.

The FCC’s announcement comes a few months after federal courts struck down Internet neutrality laws. The principle of net neutrality asserts that the Internet is a “common carriage,” a legal concept that protects the right of the public to access basic services and infrastructure. “Common carriage” laws prevent companies that operate railroads, airplanes, telecommunication networks, and other essential services from giving privileged access to certain customers.

Under the new rules, which will be finalized in May, companies will be able to pay money to those who own the physical infrastructure of the Internet. In exchange, their web traffic will be placed on a data highway that will ensure quick delivery to the customer. Companies that stream large amounts of data, such as Netflix, Disney, and YouTube, are expected to pay tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to prioritize their content.

I mean to write about that earlier this week.  Especially after I saw Cedric's "Another broken promise" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! ANOTHER LIE EXPOSED!" joint-post:




Then-US Senator Barack Obama was asked about net neutrality and, as he campaigned for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, he insisted he supported net neutrality.

Now his pick for F.C.C. Chair, Tom Wheeler, is getting ready to gut it.

He is not acting alone. 

I am copying this from the Electronic Freedom Foundation:

FCC's New Rules Could Threaten Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating a proposal for new FCC rules on the issue of network neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks equally. Unfortunately, early reports suggest those rules may do more harm than good.
The new rules were prompted by last January’s federal court ruling rejecting the bulk of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order on the grounds that they exceeded the FCC’s authority, sending the FCC back to the drawing board.
According to reports, Chairman Wheeler’s new proposal embraces a “commercially reasonable” standard for network management. That standard could allow ISPs to charge companies for preferential treatment, such as charging web-based companies like Netflix or Amazon to reach consumers at faster speeds.
This kind of “pay to play” model would be profoundly dangerous for competition.  New innovators often cannot afford to pay to reach consumers at the same speeds as well-established web companies. That means ISPs could effectively become gatekeepers to their subscribers.
The FCC issued a statement this morning that claims that the new network neutrality proposal will not allow ISPs to, “act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.”  But we have no idea as to how “commercially reasonable” will actually be interpreted.
The devil will be in the details. While all we have now is a statement that a proposal for what the proposed rules might look like is being circulated in private within the FCC, the public should be poised to act. In an FCC rulemaking process, the commission issues what’s called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). After the NPRM is issued, the public is invited to comment to the FCC about how their proposal will affect the interest of the public.
The FCC is required by law to respond to public comments, so it’s extremely important that we let the FCC know that rules that let ISPs pick and choose how certain companies reach consumers will not be tolerated. 
The problem is that most people don’t know about this extremely opaque process, and so they don’t participate.  Let’s change that. Stay tuned. We’ll let you know when it’s time to raise your voice and add your testimony during the FCC’s public comment window when the new proposed rules are announced.

If we all take part in leaving public comments to object to this destruction of a public good, we may be able to stop it.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Friday, April 25, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, a rally of a terrorist group in Baghdad gets bombed,  the US sends more Americans into Iraq, campaign season heats up, Tareq al-Hashemi shares his thoughts, and much more.

Mark Hosenball, Warren Strobel, Phil Stewart, Ned Parker, Jason Szep and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report, "The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said."  It was 1961 when US President John F. Kennedy sent 1364 "advisors" into Vietnam.  The next year, the number was just short of 10,000.  In 1963, the number hit 15,500.  You remember how this ends, right?

The advisers get to participate in the War Crimes of chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.  As he continues to bomb the residential neighborhoods of Falluja, NINA notes four civilians were injured today. NINA reports: "Fallujah Education Hospital announced on Friday that / 1418 / people killed and injured in the city of Fallujah since the beginning of military operations."  That's 259 civilians killed and 1159 injured. These are War Crimes, the term is "collective punishment." And the bombings are aided by 'intel' provided by the US.

Earlier this week, we noted this from Fanar Haddad "Sectarian Relations and Sunni Identity in Post-Civil War Iraq" (Middle East Institute):

For example, many have fairly asked why Iraqi state television, namely Al Iraqiya, airs the confessions of dozens of (Sunni) terrorists but never of a (Shi‘i) militia commander? For that matter, why are different terms applied to Sunni and Shi‘i militant groups, namely terrorists and militias, if not to deny any moral equivalence between them? A remarkable example of double standards is how the state deals with the Mahdi Army and other Shi‘i militant groups: why is it that an organization heavily involved in the civil war, and parts of which are responsible for atrocious crimes, is allowed to hold public events and rallies with state approval? And why is the extension of similar courtesies to any Sunni militants unthinkable? Such questions reinforce the conviction that the new Iraq directly or otherwise targets Sunni Arabs. Te depth of Sunni feelings of encirclement is perhaps best illustrated in the claim made by some that they had personally seen banners in Baghdad on 9 April 2003 displaying the slogan “No Sunnis after today.” 

It's worth noting again.  And pondering.  Why are Shi'ite 'militant' groups allowed to hold rallies?  Why are Sunnis militants called "terrorists" and Shi'ite called "militias"?

It's especially worth asking today.

Five days before scheduled parliamentary elections, an eastern Baghdad campaign rally was bombed.  BBC News offers a photo essay. Ben Mathis-Lilley (Slate) posts photos of the bombing taken by Thaier al-Sudani (Reuters).  NBC News has video of outside the stadium.   NINA notes  al-Senaa Sports Club is the stadium the rally was being held in.  Iran's Focus Information Agency notes that the gathering was a "rally for the Saadiqun bloc, the political wing of the Asaib Ahel al-Haq militia"  BBC News adds, "Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is backed by Iran and is a public supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."  Raheem Salman  (Reuters)  reports, "The militant group, Asaib Ahl Haq (League of the Righteous), introduced its candidates for elections on April 30 at the rally in eastern Baghdad."

The League of what?

Peter Moore and four other British citizens were kidnapped by the League of Righteous. Of the other four, three corpses were turned over: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindelhurst and Alec Maclachlan in one handover.  Much, much later, the remains of of Alan McMenemy were handed over. The kidnapping was mentioned in the State Dept's "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:"

Five British men (a computer expert and four bodyguards) were kidnapped in 2007. Peter Moore, the computer expert, was released unharmed on December 30, while the bodies of three of the four bodyguards were returned on June 19 and September 3 to the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the fifth man remained unknown at year's end. Fifteen Americans, four South Africans, four Russian diplomats, and one Japanese citizen who were abducted since 2003 remained missing. There was no further information on the 2007 kidnapping of the Ministry of Science and Technology acting undersecretary, Samir Salim al-Attar.

For more on the League, we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

That's the League of Righteous.  Yet few outlets will label them as militants -- let alone as terrorists.  They are terrorists.  Tim Arango and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) report on today's rally:

Festooned around the stadium were banners bearing the names and faces of the men the group had lost in Syria, more than 80 names in all. Men in militia uniforms -- green camouflage with Asaib Ahl al-Haq patches on the sleeves -- some just back from the battlefield in Syria, lined the track surrounding the soccer field. As the group’s parliamentary candidates filed into the stadium, a campaign song played through scratchy stereo speakers.

Jane Arraf (PBS NewsHour) notes:

Its leader, Qais al-Khazali, spent more than two years in U.S. detention, believed by the U.S. to have organized and ordered the killing of five American soldiers in Karbala in 2007. He and other leaders of the Iranian-backed militant group were later released in what was believed to be a swap for a captured British contractor and the bodies of his slain security guards. Rehabilitated and rebranded, the group has emerged as a political party, running candidates in the elections for the first time.

Rehabilitated by whom, Jane?  A lazy press?  Believed to be a trade?  Months after the hand off of Moore and the three corpses, the League went to the Iraqi press to explain why Alan McMenemy wasn't handed over: the White House didn't keep their promise.  And this rehab?  The US Dept of Treasury didn't think so.  This is their press release on Qais al-Khazali -- read it and look for 'rehabilitated':

Treasury Designates Hizballah Commander Responsible for American Deaths in Iraq


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi (Daqduq) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for acting on behalf of Hizballah. Daqduq is a senior Hizballah commander responsible for numerous attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq, including planning an attack on the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center (JPCC) on January 20, 2007, which resulted in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers. 
On March 20, 2007, Coalition Forces in southern Iraq captured Daqduq, who falsely claimed to be a deaf mute at the time and produced a number of false identity cards using a variety of aliases.  From January 2009 until December 2011, U.S. military forces held Daqduq in Iraq under the terms of the 2008 "Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq" (the Security Agreement).  In December 2011, the United States transferred Daqduq to Iraq's custody in accordance with our obligations under the Security Agreement.  He was subsequently tried in Iraq on terrorism and other charges.  On May 7, 2012, an Iraqi court dismissed terrorism and false documents charges against him.  Daqduq remained in Iraqi custody until last week when the Iraqi government determined that it no longer had a legal basis to hold him, and he was released Friday.
"Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi is a dangerous Hizballah operative responsible for planning and carrying out numerous acts of terrorism in Iraq," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "The United States is extremely disappointed he was allowed to go free and we will continue our efforts to bring him to justice." 
Today's action further highlights the fact that Hizballah's terrorist activities stretch beyond the borders of Lebanon.  These terrorist acts are in some cases funded, coordinated, and carried out in concert with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).  Hizballah, along with its Iranian allies, trained and advised Iraqi militants to carry out numerous terrorist attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces.
Daqduq has been a member of Hizballah since 1983 and has served in multiple Hizballah leadership positions, including as commander of a Hizballah special forces unit and chief of a protective detail for Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. 
In approximately 2005, Iran asked Hizballah to form a group to train Iraqis to fight Coalition Forces in Iraq.  In response, Hassan Nasrallah established a covert Hizballah unit to train and advise Iraqi militants in Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) and JAM Special Groups, now known as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq.
As of 2006, Daqduq had been ordered by Hizballah to work with IRGC-QF to provide training and equipment to JAM Special Groups to augment their ability to inflict damage against U.S. troops.
Identifying Information
Individual:  Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi
AKA:  Ali Musa Daqduq
AKA:  Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Lami
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad al-Lami
AKA:    Husayn Muhammad Jabur al-Musui
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Musui
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Daqduq al-Musawi
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Musawi
AKA:    Hamid Majid 'Abd al-Yunis
Nationality:  Lebanese
DOB No. 1:  1 September 1969
DOB No. 2:  31 December 1971
DOB No. 3:  9 August 1971
DOB No. 4:  9 September 1970
DOB No. 5:  9 August 1969
DOB No. 6:  5 March 1972
POB No. 1:  Beirut, Lebanon
POB No. 2:  Al-Karradah, Baghdad, Iraq

Arraf  appeared on The NewsHour tonight.

Al Jazeera notes of the League of Righteous, "Its leader, Sheik Qais al-Khazali, spent years in U.S. detention but was released after he was handed over to the Iraqi government. At the rally Friday, he gave a brief address that challenged militants holding two cities in Anbar province."  And when the bombs went off?

Did he show leadership, this 'brave' leader?  Did he tend to the hurt, call for calm?  No.  Al Jazeera notes the little princess turned tail and ran, "Security guards jumped on al-Khazali and pushed him away from the stadium after the blasts."  What a little princess.  Just like when he got caught by coalition forces and claimed he was deaf.   Gulf Times reports the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has announced they carried out the attack and that the leader of the League of Rightous (which ISIL called "the League of the Vain")  had spoken to the assembled just before the attack and had boasted, "To all ISIL . . . we are ready.  We are prepared.  We are the defenders of this country.  You will never reach us." And then came the attack and the little princess was rushed out of the stadium instead of standing like a leader and offering help.  Reuters notes the speech as follows:

[. . .] Sheik Qais Khazaali, had just delivered a speech accusing some politicians of aiding terrorism and vowed his movement was ready for any action by ISIS.
"To all ISIS... we are ready. We are prepared," he said.
"We are the defenders of this country. If ISIS is the sickness, were are the medicine."

We are prepared . . . We are defenders . . . I must be rushed out of here by my security detail because I'm such a delicate flower and have no leadership skills.

  • Before the attack on his rally, Shiite cleric Qais Khazaali warned: “If ISIL is the sickness, were are the medicine."

  • Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report, "Attendees fled to a nearby building under construction in the stadium complex as female parliamentary candidates screamed and prayed for safety." Citing an unnamed Ministry of the Interior official as the source, Sky News reports the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim was present in the stadium.

    Al Jazeera says 10,000 people were in the stadium. And that Sheik Qais al-Khazali spoke at the gathering and insulted Sunnis.  al-Khazali was in US custody but Barack Obama decided to negotiate with terrorists so Peter Moore and four corpses could be released to England.  America's president likes to say he thought Nouri al-Maliki was going to prosecute al-Khazali but even Barack can't be that dumb. And certainly Congress was raising objections.  Dropping back to November 19, 2012:

    And many senators were calling for Daqduq to be brought to the United States and tried.  Instead, in 2011, the White House turned him over to Iraq and received 'promises' regarding Daqduq's fate.
    'Promises" turned out not be all that.  As noted in Friday's snapshot, " Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that the rumors Ali Musa Daqduq had been released from Iraqi custody are true (see Wednesday's snapshot).  It's a huge embarrassment for the White House.  Victoria Nuland, State Dept spokesperson, was asked about it in today's press briefing."  Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) reported Friday:
    In a phone call on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that the United States believed that Mr. Daqduq should be held accountable for his actions and that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, an American official said. Robert S. Beecroft, the United States ambassador in Baghdad, made a similar appeal to Mr. Maliki that day. But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who this year had been ordered released by an Iraqi court.
    Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reminds that when the White House announced their plan to hand Daqduq over to Iraq, many members of Congress objected before the transfer took place, "Ms. [Senator Kelly] Ayotte and 18 other Senators called on U.S. officials not to hand him over to Iraq, but the Iraqi government insisted on taking him into custody."  

    Nouri released him and now even pays the 'militia' which hunts and kills Sunnis in Iraq.  It's a detail no one mentions in today's reporting.  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke that news in September of last year:

    In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

    They're terrorists.  The League of Righteous is terrorist.  You can step back and argue that with regards to British and American forces, they were at war.  (You don't have to step back, if you don't want to.)  But they are terrorists on the government payroll to terrorize the Sunni population in Iraq.

    And if you don't step back, you should grasp that the US had placed al-Khazali in military prison and the plan was to put him on trial -- US military trial -- for his killing of 5 US service members.  But Barack decided to let him go.  Maybe Barack can fly to Baghdad and campaign for him?

    There were at least three bombs  Al Jazeera says 31 people are dead and fifty-six more injured. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) updates the numbers to 33 dead and ninety injured.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "A car bomb first hit the gathering. It was followed by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest."   EFE notes, "Some of the fatalities belonged to the group handling electoral publicity for the Sadequn alliance, whose candidates will run for office in the legislative elections next Wednesday."

     Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Drop the 9032 down to 9031.  Al Arabiya News reports Sheikh Abdulkarim Dousari was shot dead in Basra.  He was a Sunni politician.  An aide was also shot dead and Dousari's son and one other person were left wounded.  Monday, security forces will vote.  Wednesday the rest of Iraq -- minus some parts of Anbar Province -- will vote.  Iraqi refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote.  Iraqi refugees elsewhere will be allowed to vote.  For example, Miriam Raftery (East County Magazine) reports:

    All Iraqi-born people living in the U.S. are eligible to vote, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce announced today.  Locally, eligible voters can cast their ballots on April 27-28 at the Crystal Ballroom, 414 North Magnolia Avenue in El Cajon from 12-2 p.m.

    Al Jazeera offers a photo essay on the campaign posters and other voting issues.  We'll note this Tweet on the elections.

  • Najaf's Grand Ayatollahs don't have a unified stance on Iraq elections. Sistani, Fayadh & Hakim support no one. Najafi supports Ammar Hakim.
  • DPA notes, "Despite the ongoing bloodshed, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking to win a third term in office in the April 30 vote."  All Iraq News notes that MP Bahaa al-Araji (Ahrar bloc) stated the government was responsible for providing security but instead "the governmental and security officials are busy with their electoral propagandas leaving the country towards the unknown."

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing left Iraqi soldiers injured, Judge Edan Hassan Khalaf was left wounded "in an armed attack on his home west of Kirkuk," a Hamrin roadside bombing left 1 person dead and another injured, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 4 suspects, and an armed battle southeast of Ramadi left 9 rebels and 4 soldiers dead.  Alsumaria adds that last night that 1 police officer was shot dead in Qadisiyah.  All Iraq News notes "4 Iraqi Army Intelligence elements were killed [. . .] at the main road between Beji and Tikrit."

    David Ignatius (Washington Post) offers:

    How did such catastrophic violence return to Iraq? That’s really the saddest part of the story. The United States helped engineer Maliki’s reelection as prime minister in 2010. But once the Americans had left, Maliki’s government foolishly created a vacuum that allowed Sunni extremists to take root again in western Iraq after they had been crushed by the U.S.-backed tribal movement called the Sahwa, or “Awakening.”
    Zaydan’s cousin, Sheik Sattar Abu Risha, was one of the Sahwa’s founders. But when Maliki reneged on promises to keep paying the tribesmen, they turned elsewhere for support. Now, with Anbar in revolt, Maliki has tried to revive the Sahwa network, offering fighters as much $400 a month to back the government. But it’s probably too late. “That ship has sailed,” says the Pentagon expert.

    The ship has sailed and, in fact, sunk.  Iraq has a prime minister: Nouri al-Maliki.  It also has a president.  At least in name. December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    Iraq's missing more than just a president.  It has a vice president, Khodair al-Khozaei.  He's the Shi'ite Vice President and he is in Iraq.  He is one of the country's two vice presidents.  The other?

    Tareq al-Hashemi is the Sunni Vice President and he is not in Iraq.  We'll note this from Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai's "Iraq in Crisis:"

    The Hashimi case quickly escalated into a major political crisis in December 2011, only days after the US occupation ended. Vice President Hashimi was leader of the largest Sunni coa lition, the Iraqi Accord Front , whose most powerful faction was the Iraqi Isla mic Party (IIP). He had supported a unified Iraq, but was one of the Sunnis who had withdrawn from the 2005 election, had called for oil revenues to be distributed based on population, had opposed de-Ba'athification as often arbitrary and unjust, and want stronger Sunni representation in the Iraqi Security Forces. He had argued that Sunni and other provinces could individually take the decision whether or not to form federal regions, and some reports indicated that he had tried in 2006 to form a multiparty coalition to replace Maliki. 
    Hashimi had become a symbol of Sunni opposition to Maliki during 2011, and it was far from clear that this opposition did not involve some form of conspiracy against Maliki . A wide range of open sources show, however, that Maliki acted first. 199 While the full range of fact in the case is unclear, and media sources are contradictory, it does seem clear that Maliki sent Iraqi security forces to arrest him and they surrounded his house in the Green Zone on December 15, 2011. At least two of his bodyguards were attacked and beaten and five more were arrested and interrogated under conditions that were suspect at best. 
    Hashimi was ordered not to travel abroad and -- in what became something of a model of the kind of charges Maliki was to use in the future -- Iraq's Judicial Council issued an arrest warrant for him on December 19, 2011. The warrant came only a day after the last US combat forces officially left Iraq, and the charges were very broad. They accused Hashimi of organizing bombing attacks, as participating in terrorist activities, controlling an assassination squad, and killing senior Shi’ite officials. They were based on confessions obtained from his bodyguards, and five more of them were arrested on the day the warrant was issued. 
    Hashimi denied all the charge the next day, having fled to Irbil in the Kurdish Regional Government the day before the warrant was issued, leading some sources to believe Maliki had given him warning in an effort to drive him out of the country, rather than hold an embarrassing show trial that would lead to his actual imprisonment and make him more of a Sunni martyr. The risks involved are illustrated by the fact that the Sunni Iraqiyya party had 91 seats in the Majlis and began a boycott of the Majlis that virtually froze it operation. This boycott ended in late January 2012 , but only after the US Embassy made intense efforts to end it without publically taking a stand on the charges. 
    The Iraqi Ministry of Interior called for the Interior Ministry of the KRG to extradite Hashimi to Baghdad on January 8th 2012 . By that time, Hashimi had said that 53 of his bodyguards and employees had been arrested. Hashimi responded by demanding to be tried in Kirkuk, but a court in Baghdad rejected his demand on January 15, 2012. In February 2012 , a panel of Iraqi judges accused him of directing paramilitary teams to conduct more than 150 attacks during 2006 - 2012 against political opponents, Iraqi security officials -- including a Shi’ite brigadier general -- and Shi’ite pilgrims. 
    Massoud Barzani , president of the KRG, formally rejected Baghdad’s demand for extradition in M arch 2012. The fact Kurdish leaders protected Hashimi --  in addition to conflicts between the KRG and central government over oil concessions and finances -- raised tensions to the point where Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani threatened to separate the KRG from Iraq during his visit to Washington in April 2012. 
    Hashimi continued to deny all charges and claimed constitutional immunity . He then left Iraq to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and did so in his official capacity as vice president of Iraq. Hashimi claimed in an interview in Al-Jazeera on April 4, 2012 that accusations that he ran a death squad “have a sectarian dimension.” He claimed that he was the “fifth Sunni figure to be targeted” by the Shia-led government, and that, “More than 90 percent of the detainees in Iraq are Sunnis.” al-Hashimi said he would return to Iraq to carry out his vice presidential duties, despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s demands that he face trial. 
    He also claimed -- with considerable accuracy -- that, “Corruption in the country is widespread,” that the prime minister’s policies were undermining "the unity of Iraq," that al-Maliki’s government was giving "military assistance" to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. "There is information about Iraqi militias fighting alongside the Syrian regime," al-Hashimi told Al-Jazeera. He also stated that there were "unconfirmed reports that Iraq’s airspace was being used to help [Assad’s] regime," and hinted at Iranian involvement. 
    The KRG allowed Hashimi to travel to Qatar to meet with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani , on what the Qatari administration described as an official diplomatic visit on April 1, 201 2. Hussain al - Shahristani, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister , then attacked the visit and called for Hashimi to be handed over to the Iraqi central government . Qatar refused the request and Hashimi then travelled to Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal. Several days later, he went to Turkey with his family. Iraq Interpol issue a red notice for his arrest on May 8, 2012. The Turkish government rejected a request for extradition and granted him residence permit 
    A show trial then followed in May 2012, in which Hashimi and his son-in-law -- Ahmed Qahtan, his secretary -- were tried in absentia. The charges now included murder and well over 100 charges of involvement in terrorist attacks after 2003. A number of Hashimi's bodyguards "confessed" that he had personally ordered them to perform the attacks. Hashimi and Ahmed Qahtan were sentenced to death in absentia on September plotting to assassinate Interior Ministry official , and again sentenced in absentia to death. He was then sentenced in absentia to death three more times in December 2012. While Iraqi politics had remained a blood sport throughout the US occupation, the sheer volume of the charges and the way the confessions were obtained scarcely gave the trials great credibility. As for Hashimi he remained in exile, now the Sunni martyr that Maliki initially seemed to have tried to avoid.

    Abdulkadir Karakelle (Daily Sabah) speaks with Tareq al-Hashemi today.  Excerpt.

    Do you believe that the upcoming elections will reflect the will of all Iraqis?

    The major demand of the Iraqi people and the key issue is simply change. The upcoming election, however, is insufficient to fulfill this mission. Nori al-Maliki's endeavor to consolidate absolute power is the major threat. In order to achieve this and win the elections, al-Maliki is expected to manipulate the elections through fraud and cheating.
    Taking this into consideration, even if proven to be conducted as per international standards, there is no guarantee that the winning party is going to form the government - I am specifically referring to the 2010 elections. Generally speaking and taking into account the complexity and range of challenges we are faced with, I am not optimistic about the upcoming elections. What we need more right now is for the election to first stop the ongoing deterioration and to recourse the political process and put it back to on its democratic track. 

    The editorial board of the Daily Star isn't optimistic about this round of parliamentary elections and notes, "At the last elections, in 2010, it was clear that what the people of Iraq wanted did not really matter, and that with Iran’s backing, Nouri al-Maliki was sure to be re-elected."  Abdul Rahman al-Rashid (Arab News) observes, "The Americans, spending trillions of dollars, tried to do a similar thing and created a democracy in Iraq. The result, however, is disastrous. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has grabbed more power than the former dictator of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein. "
    This week Nouri again accused Saudi Arabia of interfering in Iraq.  BBC News noted:

    Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has told the BBC that Saudi Arabia has "clearly interfered" in Syria and in Iraqi internal affairs.
    He said he believed Saudi Arabia was facilitating the entry of foreign "mercenaries" into Iraq, worsening the sectarian violence.

    Mr Maliki said the violence in Syria was causing "security problems" in Iraq's Anbar province.

    Wait a second, the League of Rightous holds a campaign rally in Baghdad today where they brag about fighting in Syria and, as AFP noted earlier this week, Faleh al-Khazali is running on Nouri's State of Law address and bragging about how he's gone to Syria to fight Sunnis.

    Nouri's never been able to prove his longstanding accusations against Saudi Arabia but while he's making charges that others are interfering with Iraq, Shi'ites are publicly bragging about interfering in Syria including Faleh al-Khazali who is part of Nouri's State of Law coalition.

     qassim abdul-zahra
     the associated press
    hamza hendawi

    the new york times
    alissa j. rubin

    michael r. gordon

    the washington post
    david ignatius