Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Originals

Okay, maybe Eli's not dead.  I watched this week's episode of The Originals (The CW).  Eli's not on it.  Freya learns of the prophecy that Hope (Klaus and Hayley) will be the source of destruction.  So she goes to visit Hope who has this plan that she can take the cloaking spell off her mother Hayley without Hayley being present.  As Freya noted, this has never been done by any witch.

So while she's there, Hope gets mad at Freya and sets the entire place on fire while Freya has to talk her down.  And that proves the prophecy right.

Meanwhile Klaus and Marcel battle before teaming up to go up against everyone else and keep the focus on the hunt for Hayley.

This was a so-so episode.  The best thing was Freya and Hope.  Which also included us learning Hope's got a deep crush on a guy.

So Eli?

Klaus told Marcel that Eli was gone.

Eli didn't appear at all.

But after the episode ended, when they showed the preview for next week, Eli was in it.

Maybe he didn't die when he removed his day walker ring and stood in the sunshine and burst into flames?

I don't see how he didn't but I want Eli alive so I'll take any explanation.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 10, 2018. Early voting begins in Iraq and those expensive new voting machines ($100 million) are already breaking down.

As with each election cycle since the 2003 invasion, the military votes first.

Early voting for Iraqi army officers and soldiers has begun this morning ahead of the general elections in on May 12 🇮🇶



The Tweet fails to reveal what actually happened.  It's not a happy little story but then the truth rarely is.

RUDAW explains that these new voting machines (purchased from Korea) have already had problems.  In Erbil, for example, 20 people showed to vote at 7:00 a.m. "and it took us an hour and a quarter to vote" because of mechanical issues while in Baghdad machines "in two Baghdad polling stations" had problems and resulted in some people leaving before voting after waiting and waiting.

In an attempt to not record and sabotage any complaining effort IHEC office in Suli has not provided form 110 to many voting centers in suli including the following voting stations (128750,428150,128250,128550,and127550)

XINHUA notes that early voting also includes those out of the country, "Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqi expatriates continued casting their ballots in some 130 polling centers in 21 countries across the world."

Photos confirming my participation in the general elections at the Voting Centre in Rotterdam to choose members of the new Iraqi Council of Representatives earlier today.


May 12th, elections are supposed to take place in Iraq.  Ali Jawad (ANADOLU AGENCY) notes, "A total of 24 million Iraqis are eligible to cast their ballots to elect members of parliament, who will in turn elect the Iraqi president and prime minister."  RUDAW adds, "Around 7,000 candidates have registered to stand in the May 12 poll, with 329 parliamentary seats up for grabs."  AFP explains that the nearly 7,000 candidates includes 2014 women.  THE SIASAT DAILY adds, of the nearly 7,000 candidates, "According to the electoral commission, only 20 percent of the candidates are newcomers." Ali Abdul-Hassan and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) report, "Iraqi women account for 57 percent of Iraq’s population of over 37 million, according to the U.N. Development Program, and despite government efforts to address gender inequality, the situation for Iraqi women has declined steadily since 2003.  According to the UNDP, one in every 10 Iraqi households is headed by a widow. In recent years, Iraqi women suffered further economic, social and political marginalization due to decades of wars, conflict, violence and sanctions."    RUDAW also notes that 60 Christian candidates are competing for the five allotted minority seats.  How do they elect the prime minister?  This comes after the general election and is based on who won seats in the election.   Abdulrahman al-Rashed (AL ARABIYA) explains, "To win the premiership, a candidate needs to win the majority of the votes, i.e. the votes of 165 MPs out of 329. Since it is a multi-party system, it is almost impossible to win these votes without sealing political alliances. The governorate of Baghdad is the most important one because it is the largest with 69 seats."  The chief issues?  Mustapha Karkouti (GULF NEWS) identifies them as follows, "Like in previous elections, the main concerns of ordinary Iraqis continue to be the lack of security and the rampant corruption."  Sunday, RUDAW explained that the electoral commission "so far fined 210 candidates for violations of commission guidelines."

As noted in the April 3rd snapshot, pollster Dr. Munqith Dagher has utilized data on likely voters and predicts that Hayder al-Abadi's Al-Nasr will win 72 seats in the Parliament, al-Fath (the militias) will get 37 seats, Sa'eroon (Moqtada al-Sadr's new grouping) will get 27 seats, Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law will get 19 seats, al-Salam will get 18 seats (KDP and PUK parties for the Kurds), Ayad Allawi's Wataniya will get 15 seats. There are others but Dagher did not predict double digits for any of the other seats. The number are similar for the group of those who are extremely likely to vote (Hayder's seats would jump from 72 to 79 seats).  Other predictions?  The Middle East Insstitute's Fanar Haddad insists to Sammy Ketz (AFP) that the post of prime minister will come down to one of three people: Hayder al-Abadi (current prime minister), Nouri al-Maliki (two time prime minister and forever thug) or Hadi al-Ameria "a leader of Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network that played a pivotal role in defeating IS. Ameri comes from Diyala province and is a statistics graduate from Baghdad University. He fled to Iran in 1980 after Saddam executed top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr. The 64-year old is widely viewed as Tehran's favoured candidate."

Region Prime Minister met with and discussed Iraqi elections, set for Saturday, among other issues.

As with every election cycle, the whole country has to shut down for security reasons.  This go round, Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) notes:

On Wednesday, the electoral security committee announced the closure of airports and border crossings for 24 hours on May 12. The shutdown will come into effect at midnight on Friday.
Security forces will also suspend travel between provinces and restrict the movement of vehicles on Saturday, before easing the measures “gradually” after polls close.

Despite earlier declarations about the group’s defeat, ISIS sleeper cells continues to carry out bombings, assassinations and ambushes, and remains active in neighbouring Syria where it has also lost most of its territory.

Some will not be voting by choice.  Jane Arraf has a report on that for NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.  Let's pan for gold:

YASSAR JABAR: Honestly, we've seen nothing good from the candidates I voted for. So this time, I decided to vote for no one.

SHALAN ZEIDAN: Why? There is no result - no result. We feel hopeless - no government, real government. There is a tribe. A tribe control us. We have a tribe. And we have gun. Big fish eat small fish, and the big fish always win.

RANYA NASHAT: You can see, like, everything is so wrong. That's why I'm not going to elect because it's the same faces every four year. Neither my mom or my brother or my uncle or my other uncle or my aunt and friends - a lot of my friends are not going to elect this year.

There are three Iraqi voices.

You'd expect public broadcasting to provide context and truth.  Maybe in another country?

Well, yes, in another country, public broadcasting can explain how the US refused to back the Iraqi voters in the 2010 elections.  You don't think that has an impact?  Voters turn out and their votes are overturned by Barack Obama and you don't think that impacts how they view voting?

Let's yet again note the August 2015 broadcast of Kevin Sylvester's THIS SUNDAY EDITION (CBC) which featured Emma Sky discussing Iraq:

Emma Sky: And that [2010] national election was a very closely contested election. Iraqis of all persuasions and stripes went out to participate in that election.  They'd become convinced that politics was the way forward, that they could achieve what they wanted through politics and not violence.  To people who had previously been insurgents, people who'd not voted before turned out in large numbers to vote in that election.  And during that election, the incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, lost by 2 seats.  And the bloc that won was a bloc called Iraqiya led by Ayad Allawi which campaigned on "NO" to sectarianism, really trying to move beyond this horrible sectarian fighting -- an Iraq for Iraqis and no sectarianism.  And that message had attracted most of the Sunnis, a lot of the secular Shia and minority groups as well.

Kevin Sylvester:  People who felt they'd been shut out during Maliki's regime basically -- or his governance.

Emma Sky:  Yes, people that felt, you know, that they wanted to be part of the country called Iraq not -- they wanted to be this, they wanted Iraq to be the focus and not sect or ethnicity to be the focus.  And Maliki refused to accept the results.  He just said, "It is not right."  He wanted a recount.  He tried to use de-Ba'athification to eliminate or disqualify some Iraqiya members and take away the votes that they had gained.  And he just sat in his seat and sat in his seat.  And it became a real sort of internal disagreement within the US system about what to do?  So my boss, Gen [Ray] Odierno, was adamant that the US should uphold the Constitutional process, protect the political process, allow the winning group to have first go at trying to form the government for thirty days.  And he didn't think Allawi would be able to do it with himself as prime minister but he thought if you start the process they could reach agreement between Allawi and Maliki or a third candidate might appear who could become the new prime minister. So that was his recommendation.

Kevin Sylvester:   Well he even calls [US Vice President Joe] Biden -- Biden seems to suggest that that's what the administration will support and then they do a complete switch around.  What happened?

Emma Sky:  Well the ambassador at the time was a guy who hadn't got experience of the region, he was new in Iraq and didn't really want to be there.  He didn't have the same feel for the country as the general who'd been there for year after year after year.

Kevin Sylvester:  Chris Hill.

Emma Sky:  And he had, for him, you know 'Iraq needs a Shia strongman. Maliki's our man.  Maliki's our friend.  Maliki will give us a follow on security agreement to keep troops in country.'  So it looks as if Biden's listening to these two recommendations and that at the end Biden went along with the Ambassador's recommendation.  And the problem -- well a number of problems -- but nobody wanted Maliki.  People were very fearful that he was becoming a dictator, that he was sectarian, that he was divisive. And the elites had tried to remove him through votes of no confidence in previous years and the US had stepped in each time and said, "Look, this is not the time, do it through a national election."  So they had a national election, Maliki lost and they were really convinced they'd be able to get rid of him.  So when Biden made clear that the US position was to keep Maliki as prime minister, this caused a huge upset with Iraqiya.  They began to fear that America was plotting with Iran in secret agreement.  So they moved further and further and further away from being able to reach a compromise with Maliki.  And no matter how much pressure the Americans put on Iraqiya, they weren't going to agree to Maliki as prime minister and provided this opening to Iran because Iran's influence was way low at this stage because America -- America was credited with ending the civil war through the 'surge.'  But Iran sensed an opportunity and the Iranians pressured Moqtada al-Sadr -- and they pressured him and pressured him.  And he hated Maliki but they put so much pressure on to agree to a second Maliki term and the price for that was all American troops out of the country by the end of 2011.  So during this period, Americans got outplayed by Iran and Maliki moved very much over to the Iranian camp because they'd guaranteed his second term.

Kevin Sylvester:  Should-should the Obama administration been paying more attention?  Should they have -- You know, you talk about Chris Hill, the ambassador you mentioned, seemed more -- at one point, you describe him being more interested in putting green lawn turf down on the Embassy in order to play la crosse or something.  This is a guy you definitely paint as not having his head in Iraq.  How much of what has happened since then is at the fault of the Obama administration?  Hillary Clinton who put Chris Hill in place? [For the record, Barack Obama nominated Chris Hill for the post -- and the Senate confirmed it -- not Hillary.]  How much of what happens -- has happened since -- is at their feet?

Emma Sky:  Well, you know, I think they have to take some responsibility for this because of this mistake made in 2010.  And Hillary Clinton wasn't very much involved in Iraq.  She did appoint the ambassador but she wasn't involved in Iraq because President Obama had designated Biden to be his point-man on Iraq and Biden really didn't have the instinct for Iraq. He very much believed in ancient hatreds, it's in your blood, you just grow up hating each other and you think if there was anybody who would have actually understood Iraq it would have been Obama himself.  You know, he understands identity more than many people.  He understands multiple identities and how identities can change.  He understands the potential of people to change. So he's got quite a different world view from somebody like Joe Biden who's always, you know, "My grandfather was Irish and hated the British.  That's how things are."  So it is unfortunate that when the American public had enough of this war, they wanted to end the war.  For me, it wasn't so much about the troops leaving, it was the politics -- the poisonous politics.  And keeping Maliki in power when his poisonous politics were already evident was, for me, the huge mistake the Obama administration made. Because what Maliki did in his second term was to go after his rivals.  He was determined he was never going to lose an election again.  So he accused leading Sunni politicians of terrorism and pushed them out of the political process.  He reneged on his promises that he'd made to the tribal leaders who had fought against al Qaeda in Iraq during the surge. [She's referring to Sahwa, also known as Sons of Iraq and Daughters of Iraq and as Awakenings.]  He didn't pay them.  He subverted the judiciary.  And just ended up causing these mass Sunni protests that created the environment that the Islamic State could rear its ugly head and say, "Hey!"  And sadly -- and tragically, many Sunnis thought, "Maybe the Islamic State is better than Maliki."  And you've got to be pretty bad for people to think the Islamic State's better. 


In March 2010, Iraqis voted against Nouri.  He refused to step down.  The White House backed him.  They negotiated The Erbil Agreement -- a contract that overturned the votes and gave Nouri a second term.  Not only was that a blow to democracy, it also led to the rise of ISIS.  Nouri's second term was as awful as voters feared, as awful as anyone with a brain could have seen -- his secret prisons had already been exposed, his hostility to Iraqis already known.

AFP notes how voters are weary today of the same faces of the candidates:

“How long have Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Ayad Allawi, Nuri al-Maliki or Haider al-Abadi been in power? One minute as MPs, the next as ministers,” said Midan al-Hamadani, listing Iraq’s foreign minister, vice president, ex-prime minister and current premier.
“The parties are always the same and the same people come back to power, whether we like it or not,” said the 40-year-old Baghdad resident. Widespread corruption combined with failings in basic services such as water, electricity and transportation have reinforced the public’s lack of faith in Iraq’s political leaders.

At the top, we noted problems with voting machines in Baghdad and the KRG.  There are problems elsewhere as well.

Reports of disruption of voting machines in Salahadin province and fraud and illegal activities in Anbar province - via .
Somebody want to steal votes in the Sunni-populated provinces.

Meanwhile, Hayder al-Abadi's running on the claim that he vanquished ISIS.  He didn't.  Sometimes the press helps him with that lie.  Maybe that's why JANE'S DEFENCE removed Derek Henry Flood's "Iraq after the 'caliphate': Islamic State insurgency re-emerges in troubled northern Iraq" this morning, three hours after publishing it?  Here are the key points:

  • Following its territorial collapse at the end of 2017, the Islamic State has re-established itself in northern Iraq as an insurgent force.
  • The burgeoning Islamic State insurgency in southern Kirkuk province appears to have been planned well before the fall of Hawija.
  • With a good supply of surviving, well-honed fighters, coupled with a practiced propaganda arm, the Islamic State has reverted to portraying itself as a righteous insurgent movement in the cause of Sunni Islam in Iraq’s contested spaces.

There have been reports that the Islamic State will be active on May 12th in an attempt to disrupt voting.

Struan Stevenson is a member of the Scottish Conservative Party and a former member of the European Parliament.  We'll note his statement on the elections:

May 10, 2018 
Eighty-seven different political parties will contest the Iraqi elections on Saturday 12th May in a country struggling to embrace democracy. It will be Iraq's fourth parliamentary elections since the 2003 US-led invasion and the first national test after the defeat of ISIS ([. . .]) in December 2017. The elections decide the 329 members of the Council of Representatives who will, in turn, elect the Iraqi president and prime minister. The election lists include Shia, Sunni and Kurdish coalitions. The prime minister will come from the Shi’ia factions. Candidates are elected to serve for four years.
The incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, on the back of defeating ISIS, is ahead in the polls, although most pundits think he will have difficulty forming a coalition following the election. Abadi caused outrage earlier this year when he attempted to create an alliance with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which includes some lethally sectarian Iranian-backed militias such as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), who waged a genocidal campaign against Iraq’s Sunni population under the guise of fighting ISIS.
Even the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew from an alliance with Abadi’s Nasr (Victory) Coalition in protest. Sadr is now pursuing a more moderate anti-corruption platform and is distancing himself from Iran’s intensive meddling in Iraq, making an alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party which is called al-Sairoon (The Marchers). There are also rumours indicating that Al-Sadr may form an alliance with Abadi’s list after the poll. Meanwhile Abadi has made a dangerous enemy of the former Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki is a pro-Iranian puppet and was widely blamed for the collapse of the Iraqi army and the brutal takeover of vast swathes of Iraq by ISIS. The venally corrupt Maliki spent his two terms in office robbing the Iraqi people and faithfully carrying out instructions from Tehran to wage war on his own Sunni citizens. He now uses his plundered fortune to finance paramilitary intimidation of his political enemies.  Maliki and Abadi both belong to the Shi’ite Dawa party, but this time Maliki has announced his own candidature and refused to back Abadi. He has said that Dawa supporters will be free to choose between his Dawlat al-Qanoon (State of Law Coalition) and Abadi’s Nasr Coalition.
The Sunnis are not united and have presented several lists including one led by Osama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq's three vice presidents and another one, Wataniya Alliance, led by Vice-President Ayad Allawi, a secular Shi’ia, who is in alliance with former Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlak and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim Jabouri.
After the failed attempt at Kurdish independence through a referendum in September 2017, the Kurds have become more divided and are unlikely to have an impact on the formation of the new government.
Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the grossly incompetent American administrator Paul Bremer introduced a system that assured the Kurds are always given the post of President, while the Shi’ias get the Prime Minister’s job and the Sunnis are given the post of Speaker in the parliament. Bremer mistakenly believed that this system would prevent sectarian infighting. In fact it has had almost the opposite effect and has played into the hands of the Iranian mullahs who have exploited the on-going political turmoil to levy a stranglehold on Iraq. Choosing political leaders based on their sect or ethnicity instead of on their merits has had disastrous consequences for Iraq, where political corruption and ineptitude has left the Iraqi economy and infrastructure shattered.
Abadi now says that his country requires more than $100 billion to rebuild the major cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul, destroyed by the war against ISIS. He is holding out the begging bowl to the international community and has attracted significant pledges of aid from almost everyone except his immediate neighbour Iran, whose paramilitary forces have been largely responsible for much of the Iraqi destruction.
Abadi and other leading contenders for election on 12th May are promising to rebuild Iraq. But the Iraqi population have heard these pledges before. They have waited in vain for 15 years for basic electricity, water and sewerage services to be restored. Iraq boasts the world’s fifth largest proven oil reserves and its landmass covers a vast ocean of gas. It is one of the most fertile Middle Eastern countries and has plenty of water, with the two biggest rivers of the Middle East, the Tigris and the Euphrates, flowing through its territory.
But endemic corruption, poor governance and weak security have left the country’s infrastructure crumbling. Major cities like Baghdad often have less than 2 hours of electricity supply daily. On-going power-cuts and water shortages leave Iraqis boiling with rage. They watch in dismay as the same old faces take power again and again and do nothing but fill their own pockets. Only 20% of the candidates registered for Saturday’s general election are newcomers, so it doesn’t look as if Iraq’s misery will end anytime soon. Even Grand Ayatollah Sistani has joined the fray by condemning past electoral experiments as failures, aiming his criticism at those who were elected or appointed to high positions in the government, whom, he says, abused their power and took part in spreading corruption and squandering public money. He is refusing to endorse any candidate.
The concept of liberty for ordinary Iraqis has become almost as rare as the concept of peace. Corruption has brought Iraq to its knees and only a major onslaught against the criminal political classes will have any chance of restoring order.
Foreign interference has also had a destructive role in the country. Since 2003, Iran has been able to exert significant influence in Iraq and is now pumping money into the Iraqi elections to aid its favoured candidates like Hadi Al-Ameri, leader of the Badr Organization from the Fatah (Conquest) Coalition in alliance with Hashd, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias and Nouri al-Maliki.
Iran’s ability to sway the outcome of the Iraqi elections as part of its wider strategy of destabilising the Middle East should be of deep concern to the West. Iranian hegemony in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq is a threat not only to peace in the Middle East, but also to world peace. Iranian meddling, particularly by the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), in virtually every aspect of Iraq’s political, economic and security structures, aided and abetted by years of wrong-headed American policies, will make it almost impossible to hold a free and fair election. The only way to ensure free, fair and democratic Iraqi elections is to oust the Iranians from Iraq and end their deadly stranglehold. The US Administration’s new recognition of Iran as the Godfather of international terror and the main sponsor of conflict in the Middle East is at least a promising start.
Struan Stevenson
President, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)
Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also coordinator of Campaign for Iran Change.  

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