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August 8, 2003 No.
550

Editorials from the New Iraqi Press: MEMRI Baghdad Dispatch (4)

The following report is the fourth release from MEMRI's Baghdad office. It focuses on editorials which appeared in the Iraqi press regarding the new Iraqi government, ethnic pluralism, domestic strife, the deaths of Qusay and Uday Hussein, and other regional issues. There are over 100 dailies and weeklies published in Iraq, many of which characterize themselves as "politically independent," while others are clearly associated with established political parties or groups such as Al-Mu'tamar (Iraqi National Congress headed by Dr. Ahmad Al-Chalabi), Al-Nahdha (Liberal Democratic Group under Dr. Al-Pachachi), Al-'Adala (of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, headed by Sheikh Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakeem), and Al-Aswaq (Iraqi Industrial Federation). To the extent possible, MEMRI will identify the affiliation of the newspapers quoted in this dispatch.

Editorials

I. The Composition of the Anticipated New Government

A Cabinet of Ethnic Quotas, or Expertise?

An editorial in Al-Balat (published by the Iraqi National Alliance) discussed the next step in building a new Governing Council. It described two possible scenarios; one in which the government "will be strong and capable, because its membership will be made up of Iraqi scientists, experts, and academicians, while the [other] will be selected on the basis of quotas and ethnic criteria…" In the second case, the paper stated, "the government will fail… and will turn into a problem unto itself… and the citizens whose patience has been tried… will reject any government that will not win their approval and realize their aspirations…" [1]

Let No Ethnic or Religious Differences Paralyze the Country

Discussing the upcoming role of the Governing Council, an editorial in Al-Usbou' ('The Week,' established in 1967 and re-opened in August 2003, affiliation unknown) pointed out that "the tasks of the Governing Council… are extremely important, since it has legislative as well as executive responsibilities, including the establishment of a government. In this task the Council should uphold Iraq's unified entity and its need for immense reconstruction efforts, including the re-shaping of humans in a new environment… The Iraqis expect a cabinet whose members are highly professional, impeccably patriotic, [and] unconcerned about ethnic, religious, and sectarian differences…" [2]

II. Ethnicity and Pluralism

Iraqis First and Foremost

An editorial appearing in Al-Balat (published by the Iraqi National Alliance) decried the fact that racial and ethnic strife in Iraq which, according to the paper, was concocted by "imperialism, followed by the deposed despotic regime" - is perpetuated now by a new kind of national divisiveness, between "Iraqis who lived abroad and Iraqis who remained inside." This, stated the paper, is but another wedge in the body of a country weakened by a policy of 'divide and conquer.' According to the article, the phenomenon of ethnic division was initiated by Britain during WWI and Iraqis, after the establishment of their national regime, tried to contain this policy and "to undermine the imperialistic plans to divide the nation into Sunna, Shi'a, Muslims and Christians..." The article concluded: "We, in the Iraqi National Alliance, follow in the footsteps of earlier patriotic movements and work together to eliminate sectarianism and racial fanaticism that were left behind by the despotic regime. We raise the banner of the Iraqi identity instead of racial and ethnic affiliations because the virtuous Iraqi citizen believes in a united Iraq and a united nation…" [3]

'Pluralism not Polarization,' 'Diversity not Divisiveness'

An editorial published in Dar Al-Salam (City of Peace, published by the Iraqi Islamic Party) maintained a similar position, stating that Iraq is a pluralistic country and there is no way to ignore this reality. Therefore, the paper declared its belief in "pluralism, not polarization, diversity not divisiveness… We want pluralism that leads to human creativity and to constructive competitiveness…" [4]

III. Domestic Strife

Baghdad

An editorial published by the editor-in-chief of Al-Taakhi, whichmay be affiliated with the Kurds, stated that "for a thousand years, Baghdad has been under either domestic or external siege. And now Baghdad is free and is open to the world, but there are forces trying to pull it back by destroying what is left of its infrastructure and by propagating fear and chaos…" The article also stressed that regardless of such attempts, "the process of change will not halt, because it has already paved a way-of-no-return, whereas any hesitation or vacillation will turn into a disaster. Even the [wave of] assassinations, which may hurt individuals and families, will not put an end to the [political] change. Baghdad today, after a thousand years, is free and is looking forward to [playing] a pivotal role that even her children might not have envisaged…" [5]

They are Assassinating the Brain Power

Al-Jareeda (The Journal, published by the Arab Socialist Movement) bemoaned the recent wave of assassinations "of people who made innovative and scientific contributions." According to the paper, people are reluctant to interfere and put a stop to disputes or to crimes, and that is why "people are being killed in cold blood in the streets, among them Iraqi brainpower, which… is part of the national treasures that are being squandered…" The article called upon the Governing Council to protect this treasure "which can help you in rebuilding the new Iraq…" [6]

Armed Attacks: Are they the Final Gasps of a Dying Regime or Signs of an American Quagmire?

Under the title "News Analysis," the daily Al-Zaman asked whether the U.S. is "embroiled in a security quagmire in Iraq? Or is it paying the price for a swift military victory against Saddam? Or does the local 'resistance' derive its energy from various types of support from the outside?" The article questioned the official U.S. position that the disturbances are the result of the remnants of a dying dictatorship, and stated that although Saddam's supporters have a vested interest in undermining security in Iraq, there are other well-armed small groups that joined the armed operations against the American military presence, especially in Baghdad. The paper further stated that "Iraqi politicians and analysts maintain that President Bush and many American officials are still convinced that the military solution is the best method to deal with security challenges in Iraq. However, this view will lead to further losses if the present political efforts fail to establish security…" The paper also criticized President Bush's statement that the American forces face an enormous task that will take a long time to accomplish and said that this statement contradicted previous assurances that the American forces will not remain in Iraq a day longer than needed. The paper concluded its article by stating that "restoring security in Iraq is no longer limited to the reconstruction process, but also applies to the safety of Americans in Iraq." [7]

IV. More about the Deaths of Uday and Qusay

No Trial and No Headaches

An editorial in the daily Al-Ayyam (affiliation unknown) discussed Uday and Qusay Hussein,prefacing the article with some of the 'outlandish' rumors surrounding their deaths: "I am not one of those who doubt the death of the brothers, but I am sure that the forces that surrounded the house could have waited until they [Uday and Qusay] ran out of ammunition and then arrested them… So, why the deliberate elimination?… If Uday and Qusay had been apprehended alive they would have been tried by a special tribunal as war criminals who committed massacres against the Iraqi people and humanity… and the question is what would have been the secrets that they would have divulged about clandestine relations between their father's government and the U.S. and the Western world? Additionally, how long would it have taken to establish the tribunal… and to finish the trial itself?" The paper mentioned, as an example, the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in which the defense lawyers were able to prolong the proceedings with various legal maneuvers. It went on to conclude that "the U.S. no longer has patience with its enemies, and the elimination of Uday and Qusay was inevitable, according to those who are familiar with the American policies in the region… and it is most probable that the father will have no better luck than his sons. If he faces an American rocket launcher he will be surely dead… No trial and no headache." [8]

Good Tidings to those Who Wait Patiently

An editorial published in the independent daily Al-'Ahd Al-Jadeedopined that "despite the oppressive heat… the shameful lack of electricity… the deteriorating economic situation and the chaotic social conditions… the news about the deaths of Uday and Qusay attracted attention all over the world… most importantly, the Iraqi street will benefit from it, because we are all striving for a secure and peaceful Iraq… Saddam's juveniles had the lion's share in the assassinations and in creating anti-nationalistic chaos… But we are with the Governing Council, which is trying to fashion a constitution… and to establish a national government… the deaths of tyrants reflect the steadfastness of the Iraqis and their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of a progressive and peaceful Iraq…" [9]

V. Regional Issues

An Arab Report Warns of an Israeli-Turkish Alliance and Iranian Ambitions in Iraq

Al-Zaman reported that "The latest report published by the Gulf Center for Strategic Studies said that the redistribution of power in the region, following the third Gulf war, will be in favor of Israel and Turkey, at the expense of Iran, the Gulf Cooperation States, and the Arab countries collectively. This will have negative ramifications on Arab national security, considering the historical ambitions of both countries [i.e. Israel and Turkey] in the region. The first wants to realize its old dream of controlling land and water, while the second occasionally expresses its historical ambitions in Iraq (Mosul and Kirkuk), as well as its control over the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates, using them as a trump card to pressure Syria whenever there is a dispute."

The further stated that the report indicates that the U.S. wants to give "its traditional allies, Israel and Turkey, a pivotal role that will diminish other parties…" The report also explained that Iran and Syria would be on the losing side in the new regional balance of power and that one of the main American priorities was to prevent Iranian intervention in internal Iraqi matters. [10]

Frankly Speaking

Al-Mu'tamar, published by the Iraqi National Congress,criticized Jordan for harboring the remnants of the deposed Iraqi regime: "It was expected of Jordan… to go along with the new situation in Iraq and walk hand in hand with its patriotic men. But instead, it welcomed – or asked other Arab countries to host – officials of the former regime and their families. It also attacked patriotic Iraqis, openly or clandestinely, through its media and through its international and Arab relations. This Jordanian behavior did not curry favor with the Iraqis, knowing how much Jordan gained during the years of the deposed regime…" According to the article, Jordan is depriving the Iraqis of billions of dollars deposited in Jordanian banks that rightfully belong to Iraq. The article concluded with an invitation to the Jordanians to visit Iraq and witness the extent of devastation left behind by Saddam and his cronies, "with whom you had partnered." [11]

Will Iraq Recognize the Hebrew State?

Al-Nahar, an independent weekly publication, conducted a street survey regarding the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel. The following are some of the responses as reported by the magazine:

"What could compel us to recognize the Hebrew State? We are now outside the conflict, and we want to concentrate on solving our own problems…"

"If the interested parties settle their differences with Israel, it is none of our business… Leave Palestine to its people, they have the right to solve their sticky problem…"

"The new [Palestinian] government, with the consent of the people, has the right to decide whether to recognize Israel or not. It is impossible to do that at the present time because of legal and constitutional reasons…"

"Audacity has gotten us to the point where this issue is discussed in our press. What do we say to the blood of our children and to their graves on Palestinian soil…?"

"We wish that a just peace be established across the region, and that the language of understanding prevail. Presently, there is no need for perpetual wars and conflicts. Israel is a country recognized by the U.N. and has existed since 1948, so why should we oppose international will?…"

"Recognizing the Hebrew state is a realistic solution in the present circumstances. There is no need to spend more on weapons and on useless wars."

An Iraqi citizen who said that he fought against Israel in the Golan Heights in 1973 said: "…It is time to end the conflict and recognize it, just the way the Palestinians did." [12]

VI. Special News Reports

Judges Criticize Bremer for not Publicizing Confessions of Key Figures in the Former Regime

"Several judges maintained that the interim Iraqi President [sic] Paul Bremer made a mistake when he refrained from publicizing the confessions of key figures in the former regime…" The judges added that the Iraqi people "had the right to hear confessions about crimes committed during 35 years. [Furthermore] there is some concern that the Americans will be more forgiving [in dealing with them]… under the umbrella of the Geneva Conventions… despite the U.S.'s declaration that the Iraqi judicial system is responsible for bringing them to justice…" [13]

Al-Hakeem Decrees the Return of Homes and Real Estate to their Owners

"Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakeem, leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, described the confiscation of houses and properties belonging to individuals executed or displaced by the former regime as one of the most atrocious crimes… against the oppressed Iraqi people." He added that "these properties should be returned to their owners if they are still alive or to their heirs…" Al-Hakeem also maintained that the state has the obligation to pay retribution for damages done to these properties. [14]

Syrian Embassies Refuse to Grant Visas to Iraqis

Al-Zaman reported from London that the Syrian embassy there refused to grant tourist visas to Iraqis who have been living in London for many years and want to visit Syria, or to return to Iraq via a Syrian border crossing. The paper quoted a consular spokesman at the Syrian embassy as stating that "the embassy will not grant visas to Iraqis regardless of the passports they carry… but it is ready to consider applications for urgent humanitarian reasons…" According to Iraqi sources all Syrian embassies throughout the world apply this policy with regard to Iraqis. [15]

The U.N. paid 108 Thousand Dollars to Retrieve 18 Trucks Confiscated by a Clan Leader in Al-Nassiriya

"The U.N.'s International Food Program Organization in southern Iraq had to pay for 18 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid that were confiscated by one of the clan leaders in Al-Nassiriya. [A] spokesman for the U.N. said that lawlessness during many weeks paved the way for such criminal acts…"

The paper cited several reasons accounting for such acts: clan leaders want to exploit the political and power vacuum for financial gains; agents of the Iranian regime have a vested interest in perpetuating instability in Iraq; or supporters of the deposed Iraqi president have been involved in such operations. [16]

Annex II – Iraqi Leadership Biographical Series

Ahmad Abdul Hadi Al-Chalabi

As the founder and leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), Dr. Ahmad Chalabi is one of the best known Iraqi opposition figures. Chalabi was born in 1945 in Kadhemiya outside Baghdad to a wealthy trading family. During the monarchy (abolished in 1958) his father, Abd Al-Hadi Al-Chalabi, served as a minister of public works and vice-president of the Iraqi senate.

The Chalabi family left Iraq for England shortly after the military coup in 1958. Chalabi studied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a Ph.D. in this field from the University of Chicago. Upon the completion of his studies he taught mathematics at the American University in Beirut.

Due to the Lebanese civil war, Chalabi left for Jordan in 1977 to establish the Petra Bank which quickly became the largest bank in Jordan but quickly collapsed in 1989 amid allegations of fraud and financial misdemeanors. In 1992, a Jordanian military tribunal sentenced him in absentia to 22 years in prison with hard labor. Chalabi has always maintained that the case was a plot to frame him by Saddam's regime. (With his fortunes on the rise, it is hardly surprising that Jordan has recently amended its "Economic Crimes Law," which could open the door to resolving the Chalabi case. The amended law will suspend prosecution of individuals who would agree to restore in full or in part funds obtained as a result of a crime.) [17]

Upon leaving Jordan, Chalabi embarked upon unifying the various elements of the Iraqi opposition. In the summer of 1992 he convened in Vienna, Austria, representatives of 17 Iraqi parties and movements representing the entire spectrum of political orientations including nationalists, communists, Islamists, liberals, and independents. The meeting gave birth to the INC.

In the mid-1990s he tried to organize an uprising in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. The venture ended in failure, with hundreds of deaths. The INC was routed from northern Iraq after Saddam's army overran its base in the Kurdish city of Erbil. A number of party officials were executed and others, including Chalabi, fled the country.

The events in northern Iraq deepened Chalabi's ties with the United States, unlike other members of the opposition who questioned the commitments and intentions of the U.S. His intensive lobbying led the Clinton administration to allocate $100 million for a plan to free Iraq, with the INC as one of its beneficiaries. [18]

Upon arriving in Baghdad on April 18, Chalabi established his base in the Hunting Club in the Mansour district, one of the most exclusive areas of Baghdad. [19]

Chalabi was selected as a member of the 25-member Governing Council appointed by the Civilian Administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer. He was subsequently selected to the leadership group that would chair the Council on a monthly rotational basis, by alphabetical order of the first name. Ahmad Chalabi will be the second to lead the Council.

Since his return to Iraq, Chalabi has been actively dealing with politicians and tribal chiefs to promote himself as the next leader of Iraq. His newspaper, Al-Mu'tamar (The Congress) recently criticized the Governing Council for moving too slowly in addressing the urgent needs of the Iraqi people. A couple of days later, Al-Mu'tamarpublished the results of what it described as the largest public opinion in Iraq which indicated that the Iraqis wanted Chalabi to be the president of the Governing Council. [20]

Chalabi did not spare his criticism of the Arab countries which have thus far refused to meet with members of the Governing Council. He said Iraq was moving "steadily and effectively" to establish political, economic and strategic relations with its neighbors, and noted that "there was not a single Arab government elected by the people." [21]


[1] Al-Balat, July 31, 2003.

[2] Al-Usbou', August 2, 2003.

[3] Al-Balat, July 31, 2003.

[4] Dar Al-Salam, August 3, 2003.

[5] Al-Taakhi, August 4, 2003.

[6] Al-Jareeda, August 4, 2003.

[7] Al-Zaman, July 30, 2003.

[8] Al-Ayyam, July 31, 2003.

[9] Al-'Ahd Al-Jadeed, July 31, 2003.

[10] Al-Zaman, July 28, 2003.

[11] Al-Mu'tamar, August 5, 2003.

[12] Al-Nahar, August 1, 2003.

[13] Al-Qabas, July 29, 2003.

[14] Al-Qabas, July 29, 2003.

[15] Al-Zaman, July 29, 2003.

[16] Al-Zaman, July 29, 2003.

[17] Al-Hayat, April 18, 2003.

[18] Speaking from Baghdad, Chalabi reiterated his confidence in U.S.'s commitments towards Iraq. National Public Radio, April 24, 2003.

[19] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, April 20, 2003.

[20] Al-Mu'tamar, July 26, 2003.

[21] Al-Hayat, July 29, 2003.