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memri
October 14, 2003 No.
588

Editorials from the New Iraqi Press: MEMRI Baghdad Dispatch (11)

This release from MEMRI's Baghdad office focuses on a number of issues including Iraq's present and future, Arab TV channels, foreign investments, and Iraq's relations with its neighbors.

The annex to this report will be the ninth biographical note on Iraq's post Saddam leadership. The subject is Kurdish leader and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari.

This will be the last release in this series, which began after the conclusion of the war. Future news about Iraq will be covered in other MEMRI Special Dispatches.

Editorials:

I. Thoughts about the New Iraq, Present and Future

The independent weekly Al-Safeer discussed the issue of ethnic representation in new Iraqi institutions. It stated that "there are many demands that create obstacles on the way [to obtaining freedom]. There are those who impose themselves on the people, claiming that they are the majority, and that the others are [a] minority… We, my brothers, when we want to build Iraq and strengthen the march of freedom, should use the criterion of competence and expertise in our selection [of administrators], otherwise we will be the losers… The ethnicity issue in Iraq is a very serious one, which may splinter the country into small states, and this is what the Zionists want…" [1]

The daily Al-Manara (published by the Southern Voice of Press and Printing) expressed its opposition to the use of the death penalty in post-war Iraq. It stated, "the Iraqi people want once and for all to forget the blood-baths, and want to learn that killing is no longer part of its vocabulary, no matter how grave the crime. Enough murder and killing, which started with the invasion of Al-Hajjaj bin Yousuf [Al-Thaqafi] who, in the 8th century, beheaded more than 100,000 Iraqis, and [continued] up to the modern day executioners of the last three decades. The Iraqis want to learn that life is greater than death and that the spirit belongs to its Creator, and that He alone can take it away…" [2]

Discussing terrorism and sabotage acts in Iraq in the wake of the assassination of Iraqi Governing Council member Aqila Al-Hashimi, the daily Tariq Al-Sha'b (organ of the Iraqi Communist Party) wrote, "dealing with the sabotage activities is an intertwined political, economic, and social operation that could be accomplished by depending on the people and their resources…" The paper argues that it is impossible to build a new political structure that depends on elements tied to the former regime. "There is no doubt that the Iraqi people and the unblemished security institutions that could be established from the people are best equipped to deal with these elements… We are certain that the citizens will be willing to cooperate with honest Iraqi security institutions… more so than with foreign forces whose presence is still the subject of discontent and dispute…" [3]

In an editorial published by the weekly Al-Rihab, the Democratic Monarchy Alliance maintains that "in light of the deteriorating security, political, social, and economic conditions, there is a need for a symbol that can rally the Iraqis around it and lead them to a safe harbor…" The paper reports that the Democratic Monarchy Alliance has decided to consult with King Abdallah II of Jordan in his capacity as the head of the Arab Hashemite Dynasty about naming a new Iraqi king to inherit the monarchy from King Faisal II. The paper maintains that "the majority of Iraqis consider the return of the monarchy the only real guarantee for maintaining [Iraq's] unity, independence, and its people's dignity… Therefore, it is imperative to conduct a general census to determine the number of Iraqis who have the right to vote, followed by a general referendum – prior to approving the constitution - in which the people determine whether the regime will be a monarchy or a republic…" [4]

II. Arab TV Channels' Treatment of Iraq

For some time, the Iraqi press has heavily criticized Arab TV satellite channels for their biased reporting and outright support of terrorist acts in the country. The Governing Council recently banned Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya for two weeks due to their broadcasts concerning the condition of Iraq.

The daily Baghdad (published by the Iraqi National Reconciliation Movement) says that "some Arab satellite TV stations commit a grave mistake when [they allow] their officials to exploit them for specific political goals and [when they] use rhetoric to do so. One of the chronic maladies of the Arab media in general stems from their inability to deal with the true meanings of words and their failure to adhere to honest and truthful information policies…" The paper also argues that "we in Iraq admit that the new regime, which most of our national forces want to build, is still struggling… both domestically and internationally. However, we disagree completely with those who maintain that the ideology of the deposed regime was better… The world has begun to share our realization that… such a [difficult] beginning is only temporary and that we as a nation are convinced that our country will change for the better, and is indeed changing now… Therefore, we urge our colleagues at the satellite TV channels, and especially Al-Jazeera, not to turn hardships in today's Iraq into a psychological warfare against the people of Iraq, and not to plant the seeds of doubt and lack of self-confidence among the [Iraqi] people and leaders in this transitional period…" The paper says that some may consider the Governing Council's decision to ban Al-Jazeera to be a violation of freedom of expression, but "the truth is that Iraq is the only Arab country that gives a wide space for such freedom despite the [current] conditions that, by any Arab measure, call for emergency steps…" The article concludes: "What we truly need [is] for the Arab media to free itself from the ideological nightmare and the hatred that it breeds…" [5]

On the same subject, Al-Siyassa Wal-Qarar reports that it has obtained information that "whoever is standing behind these prejudiced TV channels has been paying $50 dollars to anyone who comes up with news and fabricated information that cause divisiveness, sectarianism and social and religious strife in Iraq…" In its headline, the paper demanded the permanent closure of both the Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya offices in Iraq. [6]

Titled " Al-Jazeera Stink," Al-Ittihad daily (published by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – PUK)maintains that "the saga of the alleged ties between Jasim Al-Ali, former general director of Al-Jazeera TV, and the extinct Iraqi secret services, seems not to be the final episode, nor is the report about the arrest of Al-Jazeera's famous reporter Tayseer Allouni in Spain for his ties with senior members of the Al-Qa'ida terrorist organization… Since its inception, this TV station has raised questions and suspicions about its true goals. [These suspicions existed] since the days that it breathlessly used to cheer and defend Saddam's regime and his ties with foreign terrorism…" [7]

III. Foreign Investments in Iraq

Commenting on the legislation that allows foreign investments in Iraq, the daily Al-Nahdha (affiliated with Dr. 'Adnan Al-Pachachi) says in its editorial that the legislation is meant to attract large companies to the Iraqi market, but the country lacks capital and the necessary technologies to hasten economic and industrial progress. The paper goes on to say that "despite the attributes of this legislation we have a cause for reservation: For four decades the Iraqi businessman has been isolated from the outside world… [N]ow he faces an assault by foreign investors, especially mid-size investments… without the ability to take part in it. The Gulf countries, Kuwait, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and [other] neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Syria protect their citizens by giving them exclusivity on investments, or by allowing [foreign] participation not to exceed a certain percentage… It is not fair or logical that our doors will be wide open to non-Iraqi [investors] while their countries close their doors in the face of Iraqis…" [8]

Al-Mutamar (published by the Iraqi National Congress – INC) says that "reactions vary about lifting the restrictions on foreign investments…" According to the paper, an anonymous expert said that "foreign investments in Iraq are inevitable, because they have the expertise, dexterity, and speed of implementation, provided that they cooperate with Iraqi investors as 'strategic partners'…" On the other hand, Suheil Birri, an Iraqi academic, maintains that "opening Iraq's doors to foreign investments will compromise the country's sovereignty because of control over its economic decision-making. For the short term, the economy may seem healthy due to the influx of capital but in the end it will not be so…" [9]

IV. Iraq's Relations with Its Neighbors

Much of the Iraqi press is still livid over what it considers the Arab countries' unfair attitude towards Iraq. The independent daily Ibn Al-Balad published an editorial titled "Silent, No More" in which it states: "We feel compelled to write because of the behavior of governments in some neighboring countries and because of the decisions they make concerning the Iraqi people… I ask: Why do these governments ban the entry of Iraqis to their countries, while our country is wide open to all, bar none. Maybe they are afraid of being infected with the 'Iraqi decency' which they have been lacking for a long time…" The article criticizes Jordan, Kuwait, and Iran in particular and says that "there is no one [in Iraq] who stands up to them and tells these governments: enough is enough… who are you to treat Iraqis in such a way? Why are we silent in regard to such behavior…?" [10]

Special News Reports

Iraq's Enemies Use a New Tactic to Harass Its People

"Iraq's enemies resorted to a new tactic to harm the Iraqi people, following the explosions that targeted citizens during religious and national occasions. The criminals poisoned food products for pilgrims who came to visit the grave of Imam Moussa bin Ja'far on the anniversary of his martyrdom, despite extensive security measures by the Iraqi police and the brave religious leaders…" [11]

Iraq's Interior Minister Announces the Arrest of Arab Infiltrators, Including Saudis

"Iraq's interior minister said that a number of Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians and other Arab nationals were arrested while trying to infiltrate Iraq for the purpose of carrying out acts of sabotage, terrorism and smuggling…" [12]

Did Baghdad Become a Dangerous City?

Al-Nahdha daily (affiliated with 'Adnan Al-Pachachi) conducted a survey from September 21 to 24 in 10 neighborhoods in the city. The survey asked 1,000 men and women if they thought Baghdad had become a dangerous city. 221 women and 252 men said no, while 237 women and 223 men said yes. The remainder were 'neutral.' [13]

The Reinstatement of All Fired Employees

"Sources close to the Governing Council said that its subcommittee… decided to reinstate all employees who had been fired or forced to quit their jobs for political reasons and to consider the elapsed period for retirement purposes…" [14]

Headlines

- "America asks Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to [stop] asking Iraq for reparations." [15]

- "A new phase in dealing with national and private rights and legislations: The establishment of a legal council." [16]

- "Two million kindergarten and elementary school students will [receive] school-meals in the new academic year." [17]

- "Dr. Ayyad 'Alawi [secretary general of the Iraqi National Reconciliation Movement]: 'We will certainly overcome terrorism. The Iraqis are capable of controlling the security situation.'" [18]

- "An [Iraqi] economic expert: 'Foreign investments serve the development progress in Iraq…'" [19]

- "Two billion dollars to rebuild the army and a similar amount to rebuild the police force." [20]

- "The first cadre of new Iraqi army graduates." [21]

Annex IX: Iraqi Leadership Biographical Series

Hoshyar Mahmoud Muhammad Zibari

With the installation of the new Iraqi government, Hoshyar Mahmoud Muhammad Zibari has become the first Kurdish foreign minister of Iraq. Zibari was born in 1953 in the city of 'Aqra, in the Kurdish Province of Erbil. He received his BA in political science from the University of Jordan, followed by a master's degree from Essex University in Britain. During his studies in the U.K. he became the Secretary General of the Kurdish Student Association of Europe. Shortly thereafter he took charge of external relations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) under the leadership of Mas'oud Barazani. [22]

Zibari as Foreign Minister

While the new government is considered a government of technocrats, this characterization hardly applies to Zibari, who has had considerable experience in diplomacy through his work for the KDP. Observers maintain that he will introduce quiet diplomacy in lieu of the blustery style which characterized the diplomacy of the old regime. His first diplomatic foray as foreign minister was at the September 10 meeting of the foreign ministers of the Arab countries in Cairo. After years of antagonistic diplomacy by the Saddam regime, Zibari was able to bring a new face of Iraqi diplomacy - firm but friendly.

Speaking with the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram, Zibari admitted that from a legal viewpoint the American presence in Iraq is that of occupation. However, he added, "This is not necessarily how I would put it. I believe that the U.S., along with the rest of the coalition forces, is helping Iraqis build a new Iraq free from the horrors of Saddam Hussein's regime." He added that an elected Iraqi government "will have to seriously consider offering the U.S. permanent military bases in Iraq, just as is the case in several other countries." [23] No other Iraqi leader has maintained such a viewpoint in public.

In the same interview with Al-Ahram Zibari shrugged off the argument that he represents an illegitimate regime because the Governing Council was appointed by the occupation forces. He said: "This Council has much more legitimacy than the regime of Saddam Hussein. And, when the time comes for free and democratic elections, many of the members of the Council and its government will be elected."

Stationing of Foreign Troops in Iraq to Maintain Peace

Zibari told the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that developed countries don't take the third world's armed forces seriously, and neither does Iraq. He is therefore against having countries like Pakistan, India, and Turkey send forces to help restore stability in Iraq. His preference is for a Security Council resolution that would make it possible for Russian, French, and German forces to operate under American command. [24]

He is strongly opposed to the stationing of Turkish forces in Iraq, particularly if Turkish troops were stationed in Kurdish areas. While the Governing Council understands the U.S.'s concerns about enhancing the security of Iraq with the help of additional forces, Zibari felt that the placing of Turkish forces in Iraq raises "unnecessary sensitivities and provocations." [25]

Relations with CPA

In another interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, he asserted that the security situation will improve when coalition forces take responsibility for external security and let Iraq be responsible for its own internal security. He characterized the relationship between the Governing Council and the CPA as "a political partnership," although he acknowledged that the CPA was "the ruler in practice." [26]

'Uruqua' vs. 'Uruba'

As a Kurd, Zibari is suspicious of Pan-Arab slogans. "Any future constitution," Zibari asserts, "would have to reflect the reality of Iraq as a country where two nations, Arab and Kurdish, live side by side along with other ethnic and religious minorities. Pan-Arabism was always used as an instrument of terror and repression against our [Kurdish] people. It has no place in a new Iraq." Most Iraqis, he suggests, wish to develop the concept of 'Uruqua' (Iraq-ness) as a substitute for 'Uruba' (Arab-ness). [27]

Challenges Ahead

The biggest challenge that Zibari faces is to convert the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from an agency which served as an extension of the intelligence services into a body in charge of Iraq's foreign relations. For example, 300 former ministry employees were either members of the intelligence services or of the senior Ba'ath Party whose job was not only to spy on diplomats but also to harass Iraqis abroad. Zibari will need to change the working habits dominated by fear into working habits characterized by openness, transparency, and personal initiative. Finally, he will need to change the ethnic representation of the staff, most of whom were Sunni Muslims. [28] All of this has to be accomplished in a ministry building that was completely looted and recently bombed.


[1] Al-Safeer, October 4, 2003.

[2] Al-Manara, October 3, 2003.

[3] Tariq Al-Sha'b, September 29, 2003.

[4] Al-Rihab, October 6, 2003.

[5] Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

[6] Al-Siyassa Wal-Qarar, September 28, 2003.

[7] Al-Ittihad, September 27, 2003.

[8] Al-Nahdha, September 27, 2003.

[9] Al-Mutamar, September 27, 2003.

[10] Ibn Al-Balad, September 27, 2003.

[11] Al-Siyassa Wal-Qarar, September 28, 2003.

[12] Baghdad, October 1, 2003.

[13] Al-Nahdha, September 26, 2003.

[14] Al-Da'wa, September 29, 2003.

[15] Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

[16] Al-Sabah, (Iraqi Information Services) September 28, 2003.

[17] Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

[18] Baghdad, September 28, 2003.

[19] Al-Ittihad, September 27, 2003.

[20] Al-Jazeera, October 1, 2003.

[21] Baghdad, October 1, 2003.

[22] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 22, 2003.

[23] Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt), September 11-17, 2003.

[24] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 8, 2003.

[25] Al-Hayat, October 9, 2003.

[26] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 27, 2003.

[27] www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-taheri060603.asp.

[28] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 8, 2003.