Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Ramadan Agreement Provides Some Answers but Many Uncertainties Linger

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 3 August 2011 20:37

As has become usual in Iraqi politics, a nightly gathering of politicians during Ramadan has helped towards resolving certain political issues, although yesterday’s meeting at the invitation of President Jalal Talabani also left many questions unanswered.

The one thing that is clear is that Iraq will now ask some US forces to stay beyond 2011 as “instructors”. The dissenting voices on this were the Sadrists and ISCI, meaning that the decision probably involved something that Iran did not want to happen.  At the same time, the latest move poses a challenge to those in Washington that may have been hoping for a straightforward SOFA extension: Any activity by the US forces in Iraq after 2011 that cannot be plausibly described as “instruction” will now be susceptible to challenges – politically as well as military – precisely from forces such as the Sadrists.

The other points of “agreement” from yesterday’s meeting come with greater ambiguity. Firstly, there is the festering issue of the strategic policy council – demanded by the secular Iraqiyya as a key element in “power-sharing” and resisted by the Shiite Islamist coalition headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who finds it “unconstitutional” (and not without reason, since the council simply isn’t in the constitution). There is now agreement that the draft law will be presented to parliament through the presidency, and apparently there is agreement on the text of the draft that will be introduced. Let’s not forget though that there will be two readings of the law in parliament before it gets voted on, and members of Maliki’s alliance are already signalling that they may bring up again some of their points of opposition to the bill. What has largely escaped notice is that in its current form, the council has such a high threshold for making executive decisions (80% majority) that it is unable to constitute much in the way of an effective check on prime ministerial power anyway. In that context, the demand by Iraqiyya that the head of the council – expected to be Ayad Allawi – be voted on by parliament rather than by the council members seems more like a way of symbolically restoring some of Allawi’s dignity after he won the elections and then lost the premiership last year.

That kind of ambiguity applies also to the remaining points from the meeting. One issue that was agreed to in principle at Arbil in 2010 but so far has yet to be implemented concerns the bylaws for the cabinet. A committee will now be appointed to look into that issue, meaning that the parties are probably as far apart as ever. Much the same seems to be the case with respect to the somewhat elusive concept of “balance” in the state institutions at the levels of director generals and above, for which another investigative committee will be appointed. In the official summary of the latest proceedings, the term “constitutional balance” is used, which is interesting since that word – balance (tawazun) – occurs only once in the constitution, and in that case refers to the proportional balance of the “components” of the Iraqi people in the army and the security forces. Already Turkmen leaders are indicating that they intend to use the latest agreement as a basis for seeking the appointment of security ministers with an ethnic Turkmen background.

Finally, it was reaffirmed at the meeting that Iraqiyya will provide candidates for the defence ministry and the all-Shiite National Alliance will nominate the interior ministry. The reported agreement in the media that Maliki will automatically approve any candidate presented by Iraqiyya for a temporary role as acting defence minister is not reflected in the  official statement from the meeting.

It is important to note that this latest agreement does not reflect any sudden kind of dramatic rapprochement between the main Iraqi parties.  What has happened is that at a time of continuing disagreement, Maliki has agreed at least tacitly with the Kurds and Iraqiyya to keep a limited number of American troops as “instructors” –  and to kick other political problems a little further down the road. It all comes at a time when sectarian fronts could actually be perceived to be hardening somewhat, as seen especially in the latest co-option of the rump of the Wasat alliance, the Sunni Islamist Tawafuq, into the Iraqiyya coalition. This came after the other half of Wasat, the more secular Unity of Iraq, recently joined Iraqiyya, meaning that there are now no Sunni parties that are not nominally part of Iraqiyya. Simultaneously, Maliki has reiterated his belief that the defence ministry must go to a particular sect (Sunni), rather than to a political party (Iraqiyya), which again highlights the way in which politics in Iraq is being reshaped in a more sectarian fashion after the 2010 elections. Indeed, the formally tripartite nature of the latest meeting , with representatives of the Kurds, Iraqiyya and the National Alliance, would seem to suggest a return to more sectarian framework than, say, two years ago.

The two factors that continue to cut across sectarian alliances and prevent a repeat of the Shiite-Kurdish monopoly on Iraqi politics seen in 2005 are the continued desire of Maliki to pursue different policies than ISCI and the Sadrists (which in itself largely invalidates the National Alliance as a real, cohesive political force), as well as the growing Kurdish criticism of Iran, which is sometimes leading them to find common positions with Iraqiyya. It is this kind of tactical shift, rather than the emergence of any kind of coherent, pro-American “moderate coalition” that will now enable the US to keep some of its forces in Iraq as “instructors” beyond 2011.

28 Responses to “Ramadan Agreement Provides Some Answers but Many Uncertainties Linger”

  1. Santana said

    A friend of mine was in the Talabani meeting yesterday and informed me that it was going quite well and everyone was feeling good that the NCHP and the Security Ministries and SOFA..etc..were all agreed upon and even by Maliki
    and then right at the end Maliki changed his mind and literally threw the paper aside and refused to sign….leaving everyone speechless and looking at each other. So essentially-NOTHING came out of the meeting.

  2. Jason said

    What agonizingly slow and tiny steps, but better than nothing at all.

    Is anything being done at all as far as freeing up and strengthening the private market economy: privatization, strengthening private property rights, banking and corporations laws, etc? Or is getting a slice of the oil proceeds still the only game in town?

    For example, didn’t Iraq once have a strong agricultural sector? What is happening there?

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, many thanks for the info. Two items from the newswires that struck me as the meeting was progressing last night:
    1. Maliki seemed to make a big point of designating the defence ministry as a “Sunni” quota (rather than as an Iraqiyya quota), reportedly going as far as repeating his desire to have Sadun al-Dulaymi in the post.
    2. There was a report to the effect that the Kurds and Iraqiyya were left at the meeting at the end whereas the Shiite Islamists had already departed.

    Jason, sure, Iraq was once the world’s no. one exporter of dates. During the sanctions regime in the 1990s I tried to convince people to except the date sector from the general sanctions regime since this was one of the few potential avenues for private sector growth. But today they are struggling with environmental issues and whereas diversification is a catch phrase in Iraq as it is across the Gulf, I wouldn’t expect any miracles anytime soon.

  4. Santana said

    Yeah Reidar- The “change of heart” started right after the break there was a lot of “body language” throughout the 4 hours as well…..essentially the Islamist Shiites (mostly Sadrists) were not pleased and that got Maliki worried ..(cuz he needs their 40 seats more than ever) so after squirming in his seat during the second half he was clearly uncomfortable and when Qusay Al-Suhail walked out Maliki started sweating….and then decided – as the Texans say- ” If mama ain’t happy….ain’t nobody happy’ !! ……………..(with “Mama” being the Sadrists)

    LOL !

  5. Reidar Visser said

    But it was still sufficient to make the Sadrists pretty angry today:

  6. Maliki’s insecurity makes the immediate outcome unpredictable, it could turn well for a while but mistakes are inevitable.
    I wonder with you Reidar if the description of instructors will provide a large enough hole for the American camel to pass through.
    And opposition from the Strategic Policy Council offers more credibility than from the opposition bench, even with 80% threshold.

  7. Jason said

    Santana. So basically it is the Sadrists/Iranian influence that broke up the deal?

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Interesting reactions to the deal are beginning to materialise. Some politicians are making the point that the creation of the strategic policy council would be antithetical to the recent downsizing of the government, which after all was done in the name of greater government efficiency. For their part, some State of Law deputies are making the point that they will deny immunity from prosecution to the US instructors after 2011.

    Jason, the part of the deal that involves US instructors seems real enough. Again, the reactions from Sadrists as well as ISCI suggest they are unhappy with the way things turned out.

  9. Santana said

    Yes Jason- Iran is merciless when it comes to the possibility of ANY U.S presence in Iraq beyond 2011- training or combat forces….Iran considers them the same and any extension with significant numbers attached to it means the Sadrists and Hadi Alameri’s clan did not do their job. The Sadrists truly fear Sulaimani – and he is their sugardaddy (money , weapons and trade deals)….so Sulaimani will not criticize Maliki if there is a sizeable extension- he will come down on the Sadrists and they will come down on Maliki….as the saying goes ” fecal matter runs downhill”

  10. Salah said

    fear Sulaimani?

    Let read more about Qassem Suleimani

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Santana and Salah, I totally understand the allure of a narrative of a mysterious omnipotent strongman working behind the scenes, but still, isn’t it interesting that regarding the “instructors”, Maliki in this case does seem to have done something that Sulaymani did not want him to do?

  12. Salah said

    I think Maliki trying hard to be seen as a nationalists, and he doing well in this direction but in his heart and deep mind he is in love with Iran but this for time been when he hold strongly all the strings.

    As you know and well known that most Iraqi were disappointed from most religious parties as they proven have done nothing to the Iraqi and I believe if election held today all these parties include Daawa & Hakim will miserably lose their influence but still money is a good player in their hand to change things.

  13. Jason said

    Reidar, I was thinking exactly the same thing about Maliki. Makes me wonder what could be achieved if he were somehow freed of the Sadrists and ISCI. I think there is truth in what Santana says, but I take Maliki’s personal “love” for Iran with a modest grain of salt.

    As for Iraq’s agricultural industry, I’m wondering if there are any programs in place like what occurred after the fall of the USSR. Retired agricultural extension agents from U.S. state universities were recruited to go teach farmers there how to upgrade to the most up-to-date farming practices. My own father and a number of his friends from here in the Mississippi Delta are retired specialists in growing cotton. I wonder if there is a need for that kind of expertise via some kind of exchange program? A great wealth of knowledge being frittered away in retirement.

  14. Santana said

    Reidar- you said- “Maliki in this case does seem to have done something that Sulaymani did not want him to do?

    and what is that ??? He has done nothing…what ??a bunch of hot air that he renegged on….?? or am I missing something?

  15. Jason,
    It’s not Maliki’s “love”, it’s his sense of reality, of seeing highly his own affinity with Iran, especially when Iran has such a large vested interest and done so much damage.

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, what I meant was that there will be instructors, or at least negotiations about those instructors, and that is something Sulaymani is unhappy about as far as I know. State of Law deputies are openly making the point that “the instructors should not have immunity from prosecution” which seems to indicate a belief that there will be some instructors around one way or another, no?

  17. Wladimir said

    What’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki take on the Iranian bombing of the border?

    What do you think about this article of Elaph about the continued U.S. presence in Iraq? Just speculation?

    I heard some hundreds U.S. troops will stay in Erbil too to train troops.

  18. Santana said

    Thanks Reidar- Precisely my point….not even the instructors have been decided on…anyone can call the Iraq Desk at the U.S State Dept and ask them …..I spoke to them yesterday Aug 4th and this is what they said verbatim….”Nothing has been decided- not the number nor the function of the troops to remain – if any at all…..the only difference we see is that for the first time the leaders of the Kutal agreed to all negotiate with each other” ……and that’s about it bud.

    By the way guys- patience with Maliki and his B.S is finally sinking in Washington….the only reason he has made it this far or has been able to B.S Washington goes to the Credit of the KRG…and specificallyTalabani…has anyone wondered why the second most powerful lobby in DC is KRG ?? Second only to AIPAC ! …now why would the Kurds need to spend tens of millions per year ? More so than all the Arab countries combined ! the “Strategic Alliance” between Maliki and Talabani is a forced one by Sulaimani ! Iran knows of KRG’s excellent relations and reach in Washington. So during the border meets east of Sulaimaniya , Talabani gets strict instructions from Sulaimani !
    Has anyone heard any criticism or outcry yet from Jalal to Iranian shelling of Kurdish border towns ?? and when Talabani goes to Tehran he is received by Sulaimani at the Airport or some Minister!!! Great Protocol !! and now the KRG lobbyists are very busy convincing Pentagon and State that the 36 F-16s Iraq is to buy must be “Neutered” in other words NO offensive capability !! They say it is so the Central government doesn”t get bright ideas to use them against the North when in reality Sulaimani does not want Iraq to have planes superior to Tehran’s old F-4 Phantoms from the Shah’s days.
    The stink is to high heaven guys !

  19. observer said

    Would it be wrong to point out that Da3wa is committed to the second coming of the Mahdi and the fact that they are preparing for his coming coincides with the need to be close to Iran?

    You may think it is simplistic but when you live in Iraq, you will find out that the leaders of She3a Islamic parties truly believe that the coming is immanent. I can not say that Maliki believes this, but many of the mid level and rank and file do……

  20. Santana said

    Thanks Observer- his army or Jaish is already in Iraq … I can”t see what difference he can make by showing up….unless he is for a SOFA extension and in that case he is welcome…..LOL !!

  21. Mohammed said

    Dear Observer, Santana, and All:

    This amount of speculation about Shiite thinking is extremely counter-productive. First of all, with respect to the coming of Imam al-Mahdi, it is a matter of shiite aqeedah (religious belief) that his coming will happen. I can assure you that al-Maliki (and any god-fearing/religious shiite for that matter) believes in al-Mahdi. However to jump to the conclusion that it is necessary that Iraq maintain close ties with the mullahs of Iran is absoletely unfounded. I know many Iranians in the USA for that matter who despise the mullahs of their country and pray to God everyday for the arrival of the Mahdi so that he may crush Khamenei/Ahmedinejad and their goons.

    Most Iraqi shia I know who are religious also believe in the Mahdi, but they all know that Iran is up to no good in Iraq. I have said this over and over, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears. The biggest mistake that the Americans and Saudis have made in post-Saddam Iran (and the gulf) is to equate shiism with being pro-iran. In fact, the mullahs of Iran and suleimani exploit these ideas to divide up the shia political factions of Iraq so that each is weakened and can be easily ruled by Iran out of pure fear.

    Do not tell shiites what is in their hearts (fear of “karma”). On one level it is comical, but on another level it is dehumanizing and is pure non-sense and infuriating. Treat people with respect and just realize that whether people are religious/secural/atheist/agnostic, shiite, sunni, kurd, jew or christian, or hindu, it is not fear of God that drives their daily thinking, but probably has more to do with Darwinian/evolutionary/survival traits. A shiite can tell you he believes in the Mahdi, but I assure you what dominates day-to-day thinking is how to amass more wealth/power for one’s family and close associates. You can see this from the garbage collector to the prime minister.

    Unfortunately, the examples we have around the Gulf shows shiites that unless the have a firm grip on power, they will be destined for getting a very small share of the pie. Just look at Bahrain. They are the majority, and were brutally supressed. Santana, you said that the Bahraini shiites are better off than Iraqi shiites. It might be true for some Iraqi shiites, but look at the disparity between Bahraini sunnis and shiites and it is huge (nobody can say otherwise). Great documentary on al-jazeera english came out yesterday about this (just look at the dilapidated houses the bahraini shiites live “shouting in the dark” and bahrain). It is about relative prosperity and pecking order in one’s society. Saudi Arabia is the same thing. Iraqi shia do not want to see the same thing happen to them. Iran exploits this fear as a means for iran to influence iraqi shiite politicians. So the Saudis don’t want to surrender some of their wealth to the disadvantaged saudi shia, and the feel this might happen if shia in the gulf observe that their brethren are empowered in Iraq. It’s all about power, not al-Mahdi. And yes, the Iranian government would crush their own “shiite” people without hesitation just like the Bahraini govt did to hold on to their illigimate power.

    Now what guides al-Maliki is how to ensure that power by his group is not diminished in the long run. So he is packing all the ministries and government with people who are close to him. It is really no different than any politician in the west or east. The saudis and bahraini governments are packed with royal family loyalists. For that matter, when Obama became president, there are certain jobs that only go to loyalists period (part of the spoils of power system). And who gets those jobs? Maliki just doesnt enough loyal people with PhDs from Stanford and Harvard, so he picks loyal Dawah people who may be high school drop-outs. If Allawi was in al-Maliki’s position, he would pack them with people that he knew (probably ex-baathists or secular arabs he has chummed around with, and yes they would probably be more educated, but I couldn’t vouch for them being more moral/just).

    The Iraqi govt is bringing in something like 5-7 billion dollars a month in oil exports. Do you really think that Qassem Suleimani has that kind of money to throw around to al-Maliki or Talibani? He might be their sugar daddy but they don’t need 10 million dollars from him when they can find clever ways from skimming off 7 billion dollars or Iraqi monthly revenues. If it was purely a money game, the Saudis must be morons because there is no way Iran can compete against Saudi Arabia when it comes to bribing politicians—they just don’t have the money. There are greater geo-political power politics at play. The shiites have been effectively split into 3 groups (dawah, sadrists, and isci), and that leaves al-Maliki vulnerable to Iran, and he tolerates Iran so that sunnis do not dominate Iraq and get a hold of the 5-7 billion dollars for themselves. You guys might think that al-Maliki is paranoid, but I assure that most “religious” shiites remember history and see all the injustice done to shiites in neighboring countries, and that drives their paranoia, just like Saudi are paranoid that every shiite really just loves iran.
    And maybe talibani owes iran for helping him against Barzani in the 90s..or something..I don’t have the kind of inside info that Santana or Observer do….

    I hope I dont die of a heart attack tonight when al-abbas strikes me for besmirching the mullahs of Iran. LOL santana….

  22. Jason said

    Santana, what is the common interest or glue that holds Talabani (or any of the KRG) to Iran? I have never understood that. Is it shared by the general Kurdish population, or is it more limited to personal relationships and/or special dealings among the current political leadership? Is it shared by the Goran faction?

    Observer, certainly that’s relevant, but what can we do about it other than stage a coup? IMO, the best way to get peoples’ focus off of Iran and an imminent second coming is to make economic reforms to make life more worth living in the here and now. Revitalize the private sector and get rid of a centrally planned economy. Let people begin to taste the good life. Of course, that task is difficult when everyone’s objective is grabbing a bigger slice of the pie through corruption and/or political manipulations. A more privatized economy limits the opportunities for graft and corruption.

  23. Santana said


    I commend you for your effort in writing all that…and if the Shiites were exactly how you described and do not want Iran taking over the Country then please let me know where I can sign up to become one. Seriously though- it is obvious that you are very well educated and represent the type of Shiites I wish to see in Government-but I don’t think you even represent 5% of them I mentioned this to you before- I have no problem if the Iraqi Parliament and leadership was 100 % Shiites ! I don’t care what an Iraqi religus affiliation is..BUT I want WATANEEYOON that truly care for Iraq!!!!! .I am a big Allawi supporter and he is shiite. But reality is sooooo different my friend- you can actually risk your life in Iraq with your views – and I am talking from your own kinfolk. As far as the Abbas striking non-believers in Wilayat Al-Faqih you and I both know it is nonsense but I know Shiite with PHDs that believe in it….I remember in the 80s during the Iran – Iraq war I was watching a News video with a Shiite friend from Nasriyah- and it was showing an Iraqi Army Helicopter on the Iranian side of Shat Al-Arab and there were mobs of advancing Iranian soldier firing at it as it was loading up with Iraqi soldiers during an emergency withdrawl….then it slowly picked up and Iranian rounds were hitting it – it only needed to get up above 2-300 feet and cross over to the Iraqi side….I was jumping up and down screaming “get up, get up ” and my friend was screaming at the same time-crash crash !! and it started rotating and sinking from the damage it sustained” and it then crashed in a fireball and my friend said “HAIL” !!!!!! (our friendhip ended that day after a vicous fist fight) . I told him “how could you ?? these are our Iraqi brothers….he said – Kha**a alaihum-we follow the sect and not the nationality !!. Honest Mohamed I did not exaggerate this ONE bit- it is the only arrest on my record. This incident still haunts me at night.

    Jason- We haven’t figured out why Talabani loves the Iranian regime so much (besides their support for him in the 90s against Barzani) but a Kurd told me once that Iran has promised the Kurds autonomy and there is an unofficial defense pact between Talabani and Iran post U.S Withdrawl incase the Central government decides to do anything- which I doubt they would as long as Maliki and Daawa are in power and this is why they lobby strongly for him. The sad part is that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted and Sulaimani would smoke them faster than the Central government if their role is over.

  24. Mohammed,

    “Now what guides al-Maliki is how to ensure that power by his group is not diminished in the long run. So he is packing all the ministries and government with people who are close to him. It is really no different than any politician in the west or east.”

    You don’t need inside information to see that Maliki is playing for keeps, unlike most democratic politicians in the west or east. Democracy is the antithesis of guarantees.

  25. Reidar Visser said

    Santana and Observer, isn’t it a little crude to assign those Mahdist motives to the Daawa? I mean, even inside the Iranian establishment they are quarreling about this. Ahmadinejad and Mesbah-Yazdi are happy to see the Mahdi being around the croner, but Khamenei and the clerical establishment at large certainly seem to realise they will be out of their jobs if the Promised One decides to show up one day…

    Wladimir, I thought those numbers, in the 10 to 15,000 range, seemed a bit on the higher end of the spectrum. If they truly were to provide instruction, it would transform the Iraqi military to some sort of permanent college… Maybe just a test balloon?

  26. Wladimir said

    Too much conspiracy theory Santana. Talabani’s party and himself condemned the bombing in a statement, and the wife of Jalal Talabani (Hero) visited the affected villages. PUK is closer to Iran, because they are dependent on trade with Iran (Suleymaniyah’s culturally more close to Iran), while Erbil/Duhok is more connected/backyard of Turkey and the Barzanis/KDP do not like Iran too much. Although they also have some ties with Iran and visit them, but not on the same level.

    And yeah, you are right Reidar. I saw this article in other Iraqi newspapers before, it’s just mere speculation, or a test balloon.

  27. observer said

    A reminder, I am a she3a muslim (or at least my family is;) – however, like Muhamad, I am secular and think that religion is between god and myself and it has nothing to do with governance. That is certainly not the basis for Da3wa, ISCI, Sadris, or even their counterparts on the sunni side.

    That said, I understand from Mohammad’s post is that he is trying to reach out to those who are not familiar with Iraq to explain the obvious (at least to me it is obvious) . I know for a fact that the south is anti Iranian (and have stated that here several times). But the average man has no control. It is the She3a political parties that control government(s) in the south and they get much of their funding either through direct grants from Iran or through “trade with Iran”, or more recently outright corruption and kick back schemes that make any American think twice about doing business given the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

    While corruption may be a way to wean Iraqi parties from Iranian milk, but in reality it will kill democracy in Iraq as the average man now equates democracy with deteriorating security and services!!. So once again, there is the issue of the success of the larger experiment in the middle east and how we are going to make the middle east cross the gap to be part of the globalization process.

    Back to the issue of the Mahdi. I said it kind of tongue in cheek, but it is not far from reality. I promise you that I was present and at the table on many occasions where the issue of Islam and who is a muslim and what the end of the days is and all that sort of weird discussions took place and by Ph.D.’s Medical Doctors and decision makers. I normally have an “out of body” experience as I get into the listen mode and spend my energy trying to prevent myself from laughing out loud at the silliness — by the way, this happens between sunni and she3a politicians— oh the stories I can tell.

    What I have not resolved to myself is if these people REALLY believe or it is a big hypocritical theater? The part that makes me wonder is how can these people have PhD’s in science and be this ignorant and ready to believe a fairy tale? It just does not compute!!!! One of the “facts’ must be wrong. Either they do not deserve their Ph.D.’s or they are lying through their teeth to stay on top of the political game.

    So Muhammad, I know exactly what you are telling us and I agree with most of what you said, except the “benign” nature of Maliki and Da3wa. I am more concerned with democracy in Iraq as I think that the Iraqi people have sacrificed enough and that truly the salvation is to activate the free market and preserve the rule of law and assure the survival of democracy not the hegemony of this or that sect or this or that political party.

    Jason, Santana, Reidar, Wladmir, ask your friends how many crude oil tankers cross the border into Iran and you get your answer as to why there are such strong ties between Talabani and Iran – simple really. Historic ties not withstanding, just trace the money.

  28. Salah said

    Add another source of money that feed those beasts in Iraq, which you missed to mentioned.

    The religious festivals, and religious places, let say “Nithors” النذور most people do these things on daily life not just inside Iraq but far from India and Iran and all around as part of their love for Al-Albeit.

    Very close source used to be working inside that circle during student today at the time. he mentioned to me those Mullah you see them in Najaf or other places asking if you have Nither specially “killing Sheep” they rush to you showing the sheep and you pay for him on ground he do the job and kill that sheep and distribute the meats to the needy poor people in the city. but in fact that same sheep over and over taken all around and they got paid for him over and over.

    There is video for Vale Nasser about the revenue that Sistani made in 2004 he stated around 3billion the video is there if you like will hunt for it.
    That is why Iraq today have the highest country in the world of religious holidays on the earth.

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