The following report is the sixth release from MEMRI's Baghdad office. It focuses on editorials which appeared in the Iraqi press regarding Iraq's relations with the Arab world, terrorism in Baghdad, and the rebuilding of Iraq. 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. 'Adnan Al-Pachachi), and Al-'Adala (of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution headed by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim). To the extent possible, MEMRI will identify the affiliation of the newspapers quoted in this dispatch.
In Annex IV MEMRI publishes the fourth biographical note on one of Iraq's post-Saddam leaders. In this issue, the biographical note is that of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim.
I. The New Iraq and the Arab World
The Iraqi press has been unanimous in its blunt criticism of the Arab countries for their past support of Saddam's regime, their passivity towards the suffering of the Iraqi people during his reign, and their lack of support for the new political process in post-Saddam Iraq. The following is a short review of some of these editorials:
Al-'Adala (published by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), in an editorial titled "The Arab System: Between Legitimacy and Illegitimacy" stated that "some Arab groups and officials issue irresponsible statements about the interim Governing Council…Such positions reflect the extent of confusion and chaos that dominate Arab policies towards the occupation and the needs of the Iraqi people…" The article further states that, in the past, the same parties had "supported Saddam and his shenanigans, and turned a blind eye to what took place in Iraq… in the pretext that it was up to the Iraqis [to deal with it]… and now, when the Iraqi people try their best to find the correct way to end the occupation and deal with the problems that Saddam left behind, they [i.e. the Arab countries] rush to build obstacles in the path of this patient, striving, and generous nation…" The paper goes on to state that recent military campaigns against Iraq were launched from Arab territories, so the Arab regimes were not only partners to a regime that used chemical weapons and turned Iraq into a mass-grave, but also partners to the occupation itself. 
Expressing a similar opinion, the independent daily Al-Ayyam declared that the "Arab leaders are in a quandary [regarding the new political reality in Iraq ], because an Arab leader is one of three types: [he either] inherited the monarchy, assumed the position by a military coup, or inherited the republic…" This third type – stated the paper - has been invented by the Arabs. "Hence their position towards the Governing Council has been extremely comical. They did not reject it altogether, and did not accept it completely [either]. They did not criticize it for not being elected by the people, because they all know that the Arab regimes were not elected either. They live in a glass house and therefore cannot throw stones at others…"
The writer continues, stating, "[T]hose who know the Arab reality must share my feelings of mercy for the Arab ruler: America is facing him, democracy is as far away from him as could possibly be, human rights issues are [ignored], the example of the Liberian President is not so alien to him, foreign forces are at his borders or inside his country, sometimes they support him and sometimes they shake the ground under his feet… The Arab people accepted the old depictions of a movie-hero who never dies… [but] now, they are waiting [for] his death, even if it is at the hands of the 'gang leader'…" 
The bi-weekly Al-Nahdha (affiliated with 'Adnan Al-Pachachi) joined the criticism, stating that "many of the Arab positions towards Iraq have been a cause for sorrow and admonition… we don't advocate revisiting the past and recalling painful memories, we look to the future… It is the right of the Iraqi people to expect new proactive Arab positions in support of their just cause and of saving Iraq from danger…" 
Al-Taakhi (affiliated with the Kurdish Democratic Party) singled out Egypt and its president, opining that "it is regrettable that the Egyptian ruler… described all Arab nations, except the Iraqis, as patriotic... What about the sacrifices that were manifested in the mass-graves and deportations… aren't they patriotic? What about the Iraqis who defended Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan … during their crises. Isn't that patriotism...? And what about the Iraqi revolts against despotism throughout history…? Is it possible that this nation has no patriotism...?" 
Iraqi frustration with the dominant Arab position was also reflected in a grass-root initiative: According to the daily Baghdad (published by the Iraqi National Reconciliation Movement) "more than 700 Iraqi intellectuals signed a petition urging the Governing Council to suspend Iraq's membership in the Arab League… because of the Arab countries' support of the former regime and their opposition to the Coalition efforts to change it. The petition harshly criticized the latest decision of the Arab League regarding the interim Governing Council [the League did not recognize the legitimacy of the Council]…" The petitioners urged the suspension of Iraq 's membership until "the Arab League admits its grave mistakes towards our nation and amends its appalling positions towards the Council and Iraq …" 
Meanwhile, the Arab League refused to comment on the decision of the Governing Council members not to meet with the League's secretary general individually. An official spokesman at the League declared that "it is imperative now to start discussing the basic issues that interest the Iraqi people, particularly ending the occupation, and preparing for general elections and writing the constitution." He added that "the Secretary General had often reiterated that the League's doors are open to all political powers in Iraq, including members of the Governing Council." 
20,000 Saboteurs in Baghdad
The independent daily Al-Yawm Al-Aakher reported that it obtained confirmed information that "ten thousand Egyptian saboteurs, and a similar number from Afghanistan, were sent to Baghdad to carry out sabotage operations, including bombings of embassies, to create instability…" The report stated that these operations "have no justifiable reasons [except to serve] agendas that are well known to a large segment of the Iraqi people." The paper concluded: "The Iraqis wish that those [saboteurs] are not dubbed Mujahideen or resistance fighters, because the situation is so confused now that we no longer know who is a resistance-fighter and who is a Mujaheed." 
II. Terror in Baghdad
The first editorials to appear in the Iraqi press following the bombing of the U.N. offices in Baghdad unanimously condemned terror and violence. The following is a sampling of some of these editorials:
An editorial published in the daily Al-Taakhi (affiliated with the KDP) titled "Violence has no Mercy for Religion and Country" mourned the death of the head of the U.N. mission in Baghdad: "This peaceful Christian man who came from the other side of the globe just to become a victim of violence… and hatred that emanates from the swamps of despotism…" The article asks, "who benefits from such acts and who loses?" and answers by stating that "the losers are the Iraqi people, domestic stability, and peace, [as well as] the efforts to establish the anticipated democratic federal regime…" 
"A Sad Day in Baghdad. The Immoral Attack on the U.N. Headquarters Unleashes Feelings of Rage. The Iraqis Lose a Sincere Friend…" declared the headline of an editorial published by the daily Al-Sabah daily (published by the Iraqi Information Network). The article declared that the building which was attacked represented a "ray of hope for most Iraqis who aspire for a better future." 
The daily Al-'Adala daily (published by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) published several editorials and columns about the event. In one of them it asked: "Who Will Stop the Murderers from Pursuing their Crimes?" and answered that the Coalition forces should rely more on the Iraqis themselves in establishing security and stability in Iraq. The newspaper advised the Coalition to reconsider previous plans and ideas and give the Iraqis a chance to do so as well. 
In another editorial, Al-'Adala proclaimed that "The will of the Iraqis will destroy the enemy's windmills." The present acts of sabotage are no different than previous policies of the former regime, stated the paper. "The Iraqi people were made hostages to crazy and dumb-witted policies which were the main reason for several destructive wars against neighboring countries…" The objective, stated the paper, of these sabotage activities is not to liberate Iraq but to instill fear and undermine the will of the people. The Iraqi people, the editorial concluded, "should not lose its initiative and its will and should not allow fear and hesitation to penetrate its ranks." 
In reaction to the Jordanian embassy bombing, an op-ed in Baghdad (published by the Iraqi National Reconciliation Movement) condemned the bombing and analyzed the motives behind the attack. The writer, 'Aziz Al-Haj, stressed that no matter how unacceptable Jordan's positions are towards the former regime and its remnants, including its harboring of Saddam's daughters, "blind terrorism, murder of innocents and spreading [of] fear among civilians" is not the right response. He goes on to accuse Saddam loyalists of attempting to undermine the stability of Iraq and he infers that the U.S. is unable to maintain its security. The article concluded with a warning to the Arab countries that they should "learn a lesson from this blind terrorism… and should refrain from glorifying Saddam's terrorists and describe their acts against the Coalition [forces] and the Iraqis as 'national resistance'… The future of Iraqi-Arab relations hinges upon the Arab [countries'] positions – negative or positive – especially towards the Governing Council." 
III. Rebuilding the New Iraq : A Personal and Collective Responsibility
An editorial in the weekly Al-Muwatin Al-Hur ("The Free Citizen," the official organ of the Free Iraqi Society) urged Iraqis to serve their country and contribute to its re-construction, stating that Iraqis should "cultivate the spirit of cooperation, love, brotherhood, awareness, peace, and security in their society. What is needed from every Iraqi is to participate actively and voluntarily in the country's re-construction… and not to become a spectator expecting foreigners or even friends to support our country financially and morally…" 
The daily Al-'Adala daily (published by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) urged the Iraqis to unite in pursuit of the proper approach to resolve their current domestic problems and said that "it is wrong to keep dwelling on problems and negatives, despite their enormity… it is also wrong to keep dwelling on dreams and aspirations for the future of Iraq and to keep comparing yesterday with today… The correct approach is to analyze problems and crises… and to offer realistic and effective solutions and tools to resolve them…" 
IV. The Channels of Falsehood
An editorial authored by retired judge Mahdi Abu Al-'Aali which was published in the daily Al-Taakhi (affiliated with the KDP) criticized former Iraqi officials Muhammad Sa'id Al-Sahhaf, Saddam's information minister, and Dr. Muhammad Al-Dori, Iraq's former ambassador to the U.N., for their interviews on Arabic TV channels. The editorial stated: "[T]he insolence of some former officials has gone too far and can no longer be ignored…" The writer criticized the two for trying to justify the former despot and said that such attempts "were disgraceful and shameful." He went on to ask: "Who brought the Americans to this area? Wasn't it Saddam, with his wars and his occupation of Kuwait? And how can you expect the Iraqis to resist [the occupation] while you were the ones who degraded them, buried thousands of them in mass-graves and displaced millions of them…? How do you want the people to resist while you used chemical weapons against our Kurdish nation? Did anyone of you, [especially] you, Muhammad Al-Dori who used to be the dean of the Law School, condemn these crimes...? The people will tell you that the fall of the despot was welcome and that they did not resist the Coalition forces because you had killed their spirit…" The writer concluded by stating that mistakes made by the Coalition and the delay in establishing a transitional government helped "Saddam's thugs to raise their heads again and to try to harm the people once more…" 
V. The Turkmen Minority
In another editorial, in what appeared to be a series of articles about the rights and freedoms enjoyed by non-Kurdish minorities in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Al-Taakhi (affiliated with the KDP) stated that the regional Kurdish government decided in 1992 to establish separate offices within the Department of Education to deal with the educational issues of the Turkmen and Assyrian minorities. It further stated the regional government also financed the establishment of schools teaching in the respective languages of these ethnic groups. The article detailed the freedoms enjoyed by Turkmen in the Kurdish area and concluded with the statement: "The Kurds support enhancing neighborly relations, mutual respect and brotherly solidarity with their northern neighbor Turkey, as well as [with] all the other neighbors, and strengthening brotherly co-existence among citizens in the region. This positive approach will serve Iraq as a whole and will strengthen its national unity and its sovereignty." 
The independent daily Al-Ayyam reported that the Turkmen in Karkuk Province are gearing up for the broadest elections in the province, which will take place early October. The paper reported that members of this ethnic group are also organizing a march in Baghdad to demand greater representation in the Governing Council because their numbers exceed the 3 million. 
VI. A Father's Message to His Son in the West
According to the weekly Al-Kahaf, (published by the Exemplary Iraqi Youth Movement) the following letter, which "reflects a very important situation," was sent by an Iraqi father to his son in Canada and was published by several Iraqi publications. The letter reads: "To my beloved son Mahmoud… most importantly I want to ask you not to think about returning to Baghdad for the next 2-3 years. I don't want to burden you with bad news, but your brother's car was stolen, and your uncle's sons were found in a mass-grave near Karbala. He also lost the house in which he lived when its ownership was traced to people who had traveled away… Dear son, you are now used to the cold weather and if you come back now you may die from the summer-heat, lack of electricity, overflowing sewage, shortages of gas, fuel, and drinking water… As for the good news, the satellite dish has been installed thanks to the dollars that you sent us last year, your younger brother has been released from compulsory military service, and best of all: you may be convinced by now not to come back." 
Special News Reports
Shi'a Leaders in Najaf Reject Saddam's Call to Declare Jihad against U.S. Forces
Al-Sabah (published by the Iraqi Information Network) reported that the Shi'a leadership in Najaf rejected a call, said to have been issued by Saddam, to declare Jihad against the American forces. The head of Ayatollah Al-Sistani's office said that "the message is void… Saddam should remember the agonies that he inflicted on the Shi'a… before calling them [to Jihad]…" 
Baghdad daily (published by the Iraqi National Reconciliation Movement) said that the Shi'ite leader in Najaf, 'Ali Al-Sistani, met with Caldeans, Assyrians, and Sabbeans to discuss their political rights in the new Iraqi constitution. He stressed the need for Iraqi unity and for national understanding. 
Al-Qa'ida Supporters Arrive in Diyala Province
In a special report, the independent Al-Yawm Al-Aakher quoted sources in the Diyala Province as stating that they have been witnessing the emergence of an "unusual organization in the province identifying itself as 'Ansar Al-Qa'ida' [Supporters of Al-Qa'ida], and that their numbers have been increasing daily… Citizens in Ba'qouba described the developments in the province as harbinger of an armed military eruption in the near future if the American forces in the area fail to curtail the activities of such armed organizations…" 
A New Iraqi Party: We Shall Try to End the Occupation Legally
"A new political party has been established in Iraq , to be known as The Democratic Reform Party." Mr. Salah 'Amr Al-'Ali, a well known Iraqi politician, told Al-Yaqdha that "the party was established because the present political situation requires the development of a national free and independent agenda, open to all Iraqis regardless of ethnicity and religious affiliations… He added that the present priority is to work together with others to end the occupation legally, in a manner acceptable to international law and conventions." 
Possible Strike of Printing Houses in Iraq
"The Iraqi Printing Houses Association announced that all owners and employees would strike in response to UNESCO's and UNICEF's decision to print all school books and texts outside Iraq, depriving the Iraqi printing houses the opportunity to participate in such a national endeavor…" 
Beware the AIDS Club
According to the independent Al-Yawm Al-Aakher there has been a proliferation of Western and Asian prostitution rings in Iraq, especially women who are infected with AIDS. The paper reported that "this is exactly what young Israeli women have done in the past in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Egypt. Young men of Iraq, beware." 
Iraqi Oil Smuggled with British Blessing
A report issued by the daily Al-Qabas (published by the New Iraq Philanthropic Society) stated that oil smuggling operations have been resumed via the port of Abu Faris on Shat-Al-Arab, to the Basra province. According to the report, the oil is transported by trucks from Salah Al-Deen refineries and passes through several British and American check-points. The article concluded that it is the exact same spot where the previous regime used to condone oil smuggling operations for a percentage of their revenues. 
- Dr. Muhammad Hassan 'Abd Al-Hamid, member of the Governing Council: "The Americans do not need bases in Iraq. They will depart at the end of 2004." 
- Mosul's police commander was injured when his convoy was attacked inside the city. 
- Al-Talabani: "The Dream of a Kurdish State has not died, but is not on the present agenda." 
- A delegation from the Governing Council arrived in Abu Dhabi. 
- "The American army [devised] a secret way to smuggle Israeli goods to Iraq." 
- 'Adnan Al-Pachachi: "No relations with Israel now." 
- " Kuwait calls for brotherly relations with Iraq." 
- The UAE imports a large number of electrical generators to Iraq, free of charge. 
- Jordan 's health department inoculates over 2,600 Iraqi children. 
- Jordanian and Gulf airlines resume flights to Basra early next month. 
Annex IV: Iraqi Leadership Biographical Series
Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim
The relative calm maintained in the predominantly Shi'a areas in southern Iraq is a tribute to the constructive and moderating influence exercised by the leading Shi'a clerics, including Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim. He said during the war, "We did not expect a popular uprising. The Americans did. They have fallen into an Iraqi trap."  By "trap" Al-Hakim implied that the Americans were victim to their miscalculations about a possible Shi'a uprising.
Al-Hakim was born in 1939 in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq to a family steeped in Shi'a religious scholarship. Najaf is the center of the Hawza which is the most significant Shi'a center in terms of scholarship, doctrine, and the interpretation of the Shari'ah , or Islamic law. It was in the Hawza that Al-Hakim made his mark as a brilliant student of Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence. 
Baqir Al-Hakim began his career as a teacher of Islamic Shari'ah in 1964 at the College of Religious Principles in Baghdad. Unhappy with state intervention in the religious teachings in his school by the Ba'athist government, he returned to Najaf to devote himself to scholarly work. In 1977 he was arrested, together with thousands others, and accused of instigating disturbances against the government and was sentenced to prison for life. Together with other political prisoners, Baqir Al-Hakim was pardoned a year later. By then, his influence on the scholars in Najaf began to rise through his books and through writings published in a magazine called Al-Adhwa Al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Glows) which had gradually become the mouthpiece for those seeking the establishment of an Islamic regime in Iraq. Viewing this trend as a manifestation of Iranian ambitions in Iraq, Baghdad took even harsher measures against proponents of these ideas, expelling many to Iran on the grounds that they had "Iranian origins."
With life becoming increasingly intolerable because of constant harassment by the Iraqi authorities, Baqir Al-Hakim escaped to Iran days before the Iraq-Iran war broke out. In Iran, he organized the "The Islamic Revolutionary Bureau in Iraq," which subsequently became "The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)." While he sought to chart an independent course from Iran, the suspicion persisted that the Supreme Council reflected Iranian ambitions in Iraq.
From the time Iraqi opposition in exile began to galvanize from the late 1990s, up to the time of the war in Iraq, Al-Hakim, through his younger brother and deputy leader of SCIRI Hujjat Al-Islam Sayyed Abd Al-Aziz Al-Hakim, participated in the meetings of the Iraqi opposition in London and Washington. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Hakim is also a member of Iraq's Governing Council and a member of its executive board and head of the military arm Failaq Al-Badr (Al-Badr Brigade). Incidentally, the strength, status and future of this military arm of SCIRI remains unclear.
Baqir Al-Hakim's involvement with the Iraqi opposition in exile has transformed his views. No longer committed to a Khomeini-style regime in Iraq, Al-Hakim has articulated a vision based on four broad principles:
First, unlike Iran, Iraq must have an inclusive, multi-ethnic and democratic government;
Second, the Shi'a community in general, should stay calm, should avoid confrontation with the allied forces, and should give the U.S. a chance to introduce reforms;
Third, Iraq should continue dialogue with the U.S. and avoid burning bridges with them. However, it should also convince the U.S. to leave, and;
Fourth, the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq should be expanded.
Inclusive, Multi-Ethnic, and Democratic Government
Interviewed during the war, Al-Hakim stressed that he would not accept any government not elected by the people. He added, "If the government is appointed, we will resist with political means but if fighting is forced on us, we shall fight." When asked whether he has a vision of an Islamic future for Iraq, he responded by saying there should be a democratic government "that respects Islam." 
Retreating from the concept of an Islamic government, Al-Hakim has begun to advocate a democratic government with a wide base that includes all political parties and all segments of the society. While, as a Muslim organization, the Supreme Council would naturally aspire to an Islamic state, he has agreed with other political parties on the creation of a multi-party state "to avoid [a] social explosion." While the Shi'a are the majority in the country he has not wanted to exclude other Iraqis. 
He has become a proponent of the Governing Council and has called on Arab and Islamic countries to recognize it as the government in transition for Iraq. 
Calming the Waters
Ayatollah Al-Hakim was later to tell the newspaper Al-Adala (Justice) - the organ of the Supreme Council - that peaceful means of dealing with the American and British occupation forces have not been exhausted. He added pointedly: "force should not be depended upon until after all peaceful means, the good word, the dialogue and the logic have been exhausted and this has not happened yet." While actions against the American forces may be justified on grounds of the people's anger at the occupation, he said, these operations are being carried out by "men from the previous regime." According to Al-Hakim, the operations are intended to destroy Iraq and to suggest to the people that the conditions under the Saddam regime were preferable to those of occupation. 
Dialogue with the Americans
In an interview prior to the war, Al-Hakim was asked whether he could maintain good relations with the U.S. given the fact that he was residing in Iran where the U.S. was treated as "the Great Satan." He answered, "It is conceivable that the Supreme Council's policies may differ from those of Iran's. We have been here for 20 years and we do not have relations with the Iraqi regime and we oppose it while Iran has diplomatic relations with it. The Council also maintains relations with countries which may not be compatible with the interests of Iran. To my knowledge, Iran has no dialogue with America, but we dialogued with it for 10 years. What is new is that we have recently elevated the level of dialogue." 
In a lecture delivered at the College of Social Sciences in Kuwait, also before the war, Al-Hakim denied the existence of Fatwas (religious edicts) that forbade cooperation with the Americans. He said the allegations that there are such Fatwas are merely propaganda by the former Saddam regime. Demonstrating foresight, he called on the opposition groups to mobilize the Iraqi people to limit "the damage from anarchy and disorder" that would follow from the liberation of Iraq from years of pressure and oppression. 
The theme of the need for a dialogue with the U.S. has continued to be articulated after the war. For example, in April of this year, Al-Hakim's brother, Abd Al-Aziz Al-Hakim said "The bridges with America have not been burned. It is important that the dialogue continue not only for the sake of the Iraqi people, but also for the sake of convincing the Americans to leave Iraq as soon as possible." 
Increase the Role of the United Nations
Al-Hakim has been persistent in demanding that the United Nations join in the dialogue with the occupation forces and the Iraqi political parties. In a Friday sermon in Najaf delivered before a large crowd, he argued that it is essential "to extricate Iraq from under the burden of total hegemony of the occupation forces." 
While Ayatollah Baqir Al-Hakim appears to have distanced himself, at least for the time being, from the notion of an Islamic state in Iraq, he has been consistent in his other major positions. Most importantly, he has exercised a constructive influence on the Shi'a community to stay calm and to avoid being drawn into acts of sabotage that can only harm Iraq and give comfort to the supporters of Saddam Hussein, who was responsible for great pain inflicted on the Shi'a of Iraq.
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