Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lots of Links on the Middle East

Despite the United States, Iraq seems to maybe be cobbling together a government.

Iraq’s parliament has passed the most sweeping political reforms in the country’s post-Saddam history, prompting euphoria over the ability of peaceful public protests to bring about meaningful change.

In the midst of a sweltering summer, public protests in Baghdad, Basra, and other cities over corruption and a lack of services have provided Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi a mandate to cut across sectarian and political lines and push through the drastic changes.

Demands for change by Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sealed the deal, allowing quick cabinet approval and an unprecedented unanimous vote Tuesday in Iraq’s fractious parliament.

The reforms would eliminate multiple positions of vice president and deputy prime minister traditionally negotiated between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds as well as other senior posts for political appointees. Up to a dozen government ministries would also be cut.

Then there is the effort to bring peace, or at least less war, to Syria. 

More than two dozen people were killed in airstrikes in and around the Syrian capital Damascus early Wednesday, casting doubt on an already shaky premise of an Iranian-led peace initiative. 

The attacks — a combination of rebel shelling and government airstrikes — came just hours before the scheduled arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif. He was expected to speak about Iran’s prospective four-point peace plan for ending Syria’s grinding four-year civil war, which is said to include a cease-fire and “national unity government,” the Associated Press reports

Recent negotiations aimed at achieving the cease-fire in Zabadani, which lies northwest of Damascus, and in the northern villages of Foua and Kfarya were seen as consistent with an evolving Iran-backed plan to contract the territory controlled by Assad to manageable dimensions, The Christian Science Monitor has reported.

Assad will soon control just Damascus. Or possibly the ground he stands on. 

The group United Against A Nuclear Iran lost its president

When the bipartisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran decided last week to mobilize opposition against the nuclear deal with Tehran, their president, Gary Samore stepped down, The New York Times reported.

Mr. Samore, a former nuclear adviser to President Obama, initially felt “chances of a successful negotiation were dim. But after the framework of an accord was announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, in April, he praised it as a good step,” The Times noted. “I think President Obama’s strategy succeeded,” he told the Times.

And as Shaw points out at Progressive Eruptions, we need to listen to the generals. 

Three dozen retired generals and admirals released an open letter Tuesday supporting the Iran nuclear deal and urging Congress to do the same.

Calling the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” the letter said that gaining international support for military action against Iran, should that ever become necessary, “would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance.”

And hating on Iran creates strange bedfellows: Israelis and Saudis embracing on enemy of my enemy basis. 

For now, any peace feelers are based on what Israel and Saudi Arabia jointly oppose, not what they might gain in benefits from friendly relations. And that list only gets longer.

For starters, they do not like the Iran nuclear deal based on their concern that it might embolden Iran and its militant proxies in the Middle East, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to rebels in Yemen. But they also worry about a collapse of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and the rise of Islamic State and other jihadi groups. And preventing Hamas in Gaza from starting another war with Israel is also in their interest.

Ain't love grand?

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