Letter from Baghdad: In checkpoint scrawl, reality’s counterpoint

In checkpoint scrawl, reality’s counterpoint

The writing on the walls of Baghdad’s checkpoints have little to do with reality. Grim as life is here, with everything from buildings to desiccated orchards shaded in a dull ocher, no one needs testament to that. More often, the slogans penned in graceful Arabic say what leaders of a state threatening to fail want, or what they lack.

“No to terrorism,” insists graffiti to a country still haunted by it. “Respect and be respected,” declares a motto of Iraqi soldiers, who habitually complain of disrespect. “No one is above the law,” intones a slogan to passersby, few of whom would concur.

No one disputes these days that the Americans are leaving Iraq, at least in their incarnation as an occupying power backed by more than 100,000 soldiers in a country that feels as wrecked today as it has at any time since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But no one is quite sure what kind of state they will leave behind.

The slogans of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government give one sense, although they invariably speak with far more confidence than they inspire. Scrawled along the checkpoints, they are the words of authority. Law means obedience, as does patriotism. Allegiance is mentioned far more than democracy or freedom. [continued…]

Biden pushes Iraqi leaders on vote law, oil-bid perks

Vice President Biden pressed Iraqi leaders Wednesday to approve as quickly as possible legislation that establishes rules for the planned January general election and to make the next round of bids to develop Iraqi oil concessions more attractive to foreign investors.

In a series of meetings in the Green Zone, Biden listened to the concerns of Iraqi leaders, now in the heat of an election season that Obama administration officials acknowledge will delay until after the vote any progress on such pressing issues as passing a law on the equitable distribution of national oil revenue among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

A senior administration official said Biden also made his interests known on a variety of issues, such as the need for the Iraqi parliament to adopt laws to better protect foreign investment and leaving unchanged the terms of the timetable for the withdrawal of the 130,000 U.S. troops now in the country. [continued…]

Iraq’s vice president says Iraq should call on US for security help

Iraq should consider calling for more help from US forces in the wake of August’s devastating suicide truck bombings in Baghdad, Vice President Adel Abul Madhi told the Monitor.

In an implicit criticism of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s reluctance to ask for help from the US following the June 30 pullback of combat troops, Dr. Abdul Mahdi called for a re-assesment of the role of US forces here that could result in more involvement for American troops sidelined by what he termed an over-optimistic view of security in Iraq.

“This should be reassessed once again – whether it was too early, whether it was adequate this should be assessed,” he said on Sunday when asked whether the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraqi cities has weakened security. [continued…]

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