November 30, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 821

Arab Columnists: Arab Countries are Hypocritical on Iraq

November 30, 2004
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 821

Several Arab columnists have recently published articles in the Arab press refuting the argument that the Iraqi government is illegitimate, in response to an argument voiced by representatives of several Arab countries at the November 2004 Sharm Al-Sheikh summit. The following are excerpts from three of these pieces:

Free Elections in the Arab World Occur Only in Occupied Iraq and Palestine

In an article titled 'Democratic Occupation?' columnist Salama Ni'mat, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat, wrote:

"The Arab concern for … the legitimacy of Iraq's upcoming elections, and for the representation of [Iraq's] entire political, ethnic, and religious spectrum is outrageous. Anyone who watches what is going on could, if he did not know the truth, almost believe that the Arab countries – which throughout their history have never known what elections are – have become the [countries] most keen that Iraq's upcoming elections will reflect the will of the Iraqi people, with all its elements – and will particularly [reflect the will of] the Sunni minority that in Saddam Hussein's day was, for well-known reasons no one even questioned, [considered] a 'majority.'

"It is outrageous, and amazing, that the first free and general elections in the history of the Arab nation are to take place in January: in Iraq, under the auspices of American occupation, and in Palestine, under the auspices of the Israeli occupation.

"[It is just as] outrageous that the Arab League, which represents the will of the regimes of 20 [Arab] countries from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, wanted the Iraqi opposition to be invited to the Sharm Al-Sheikh conference, so as to ensure that all Iraq, with its entire political spectrum, would be in attendance to represent the Iraqi people. It matters not at all that other Arab oppositions have not been invited to any Arab League meeting or to its many summit conferences, throughout the history of the Arab peoples."

'What Prevents Arab Regimes from Holding Free Elections is Fear of the Will of the Peoples'

"It is well and good for the Arabs to demand the right of political representation for the Sunni Arabs out of concern for them in the face of the tyranny of the other Iraqi groups and out of concern for national unity and the ideal relative representation. But we do not understand why this concern does not apply to the many Arab countries that do not permit their minorities to announce their existence, let alone their right to [political] representation.

"Have the ministers of the countries that participated in the Sharm Al-Sheikh [conference] noticed that some of the participating countries are still controlled by minorities that do not permit the majority to express its opinion? Why haven't we heard of any Arab concern like that for the Sunni Arabs in Iraq? Were other Arab oppositions invited to the conference, such that the Arab League could insist on the Iraqi opposition's presence?

"It is sad and pathetic that the eyes of the entire world are upon the Palestinian and Iraqi elections that will be held under the lances of foreign occupation, while the peoples of the 'independent, free, and sovereign' Arab countries have no way of expressing their will. It is sad and pathetic that certain countries today are treating the Iraqis with the cheapest kind of political hypocrisy, even though no one heard any particular Arab protest during the time of the regime of the mass graves [i.e. during Saddam's rule].

"What prevents some of the Arab regimes from holding free and genuine elections is their fear of the results, and nothing more – that is, their fear of the will of their peoples."

'Ask the Arab League Why the Media in Occupied Iraq and Palestine Enjoy Freedom Under the Occupation, While the Media in the Other Arab Countries Do Not'

"Although the Taliban's regime of darkness has become history, and Saddam Hussein sits in his cell awaiting trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Arab regimes still act as if nothing has happened. Further, [they act] as if history is not happening as long as they do not acknowledge its existence and do not announce it in the papers and on the television channels, [all of] which they control. Can anybody ask the Arab League why the media in occupied Iraq and Palestine enjoy freedom under the occupation, while the media in the other Arab countries do not?

"No one expects an occupation to respond to the will of the people suffering beneath its yoke. But nothing is more repugnant than a national regime that is worse than occupation.

"The remaining challenge is this: Can independent and sovereign Arab countries give their peoples something better than what the occupation is giving today to Iraq and Palestine?" [1]

The Iraqi Regime Is More Legitimate than Most Arab Regimes

In a similar vein, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor of the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and now director-general of Al-Arabiyya TV, wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:

"Some of the members sitting at the conference table [at Sharm Al-Sheikh, and some] of the commentators and conferees in the halls maintain that the Baghdad government is not legitimate. Why? They argue that it is not elected and was appointed by the American occupation.

"This widespread view has some basis… However, the talk of the illegitimacy of the [Iraqi] government … allows us to raise questions regarding [the legitimacy] of most of the regimes in the region.

"The current regime in Baghdad was given legitimacy by a unanimous vote of the members of the U.N. Security Council, and became legal according to international law. On the regional level, the legitimacy of the new Iraqi regime was emanated from a unanimous Arab League vote. Locally, this regime made huge strides when it established the National Council – a parliament that represents all the different populations in Iraq, including the opposition – and the [regime] will reach its goal when it holds the upcoming elections.

"If we view these three levels [i.e. the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League, and the Iraqi National Council] as a criterion, the Iraqi regime is more legitimate than most [regimes] in the countries of the region – some of which emerged as a result of coups or internal conspiracies, when no one asked the people what it thought.

"If the doubt regarding the Iraqi regime stems from its ties with Washington - do you know of any [Arab] government that does not have any special ties with Washington or other [Western] countries? If the justification for the doubt in the Iraqi regime is the presence of American forces [in Iraq], we must remember that Iraq is not the only country hosting American forces. Moreover, most of the voices criticizing the [present] regime in Iraq come from countries with even more American forces on their land…" [2]

'This Country Will be a Platform for Liberties in the Whole Region'

Egyptian journalist Nabil Sharaf Al-Din also spoke on Al-Jazeera TV about the future of Iraq. The following are excerpts from the program:

Nabil Sharaf Al-Din:"We are not being fair to the current Iraqi government. Not me, nor you, nor the other guest on this program, not even the viewers, but history will do justice to them. These people are establishing the first democracy in the Middle East. This country will be a platform for liberties in the whole region. In Iraq, the days of a leader who remains on his throne until he dies are gone. This is over. For the first time the Iraqi leader will be elected by Iraqi ballots."

Interviewer: "We've heard that [head of the Sunni Clerics Council in Iraq] Sheik Al-Dhari says the purpose of [Sharm Al-Sheikh] summit aims to assist the occupation…"

Nabil Sharaf Al-Din: "This Al-Dhari is a mufti of terrorism and slaughter. This Al-Dhari is the military branch of the murderers, the military branch of terrorism and televised slaughtering This Al-Dhari … and his group… Sir, please…

"First and foremost, the claim that this summit was meant to save America… When have the Arabs succeeded in resolving their own crises and conflicts?" [3]

[1] Al-Hayat (London), November 25, 2004.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 24, 2004.

[3] Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar), November 23, 2004, MEMRI TV Clip No. 386 "Egyptian Journalist Nabil Sharaf Al-Din: Iraqi Sunni Leader, Sheik Al-Dhari, 'Mufti of Terrorism and Televised Slaughter'"

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