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September 4, 2003 No.
568

Editorials from the New Iraqi Press: MEMRI Baghdad Dispatch (7)

The following report is the seventh release from MEMRI's Baghdad office. It focuses on editorials which appeared in the Iraqi press regarding the assassination of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, Iraq's relations with the Arab world, terrorism in Baghdad, as well as other issues relating to the rebuilding of Iraq.

In Annex V MEMRI publishes the fifth biographical note on one of Iraq's post-Saddam leaders. In this issue, the biographical note is that of Dr. Ibrahim Al-Ashaiqer Al-Ja'fari.

Editorials

I. The Assassination of Ayatollah Al-Hakim

The assassination of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim was the subject of a number of editorials and reports in all Iraqi newspapers, regardless of their political persuasions. Al-Hakim was also the subject of a MEMRI biographical note in the previous MEMRI Baghdad Dispatch. [1] The following is a brief sample of the editorials:

The daily Al-Sabah (Iraqi Information Network) wrote: "The Iraqis have lost yesterday one of the noblest fighters throughout his life against fascism and dictatorship. We have lost Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim at a highly critical time in which we need tested, experienced and strong leaders who can pull the country out of its crisis and difficulty." [2]

Al-Manar (independent) hailed the fact that Al-Hakim "rejected the radicals and called for peace and understanding…" The paper further stated that those who committed the crime recognized that Iraq was "in need of leaders who use their logic, not their emotions…" [3]

In an editorial titled "Abominable Crimes Condemned by Iraqis," the daily Al-Zaman (independent) stated that "using car bombs is a coward[ly] style… that should be condemned and prevented from happening [again] with every means available to every individual in this society. It is unacceptable to turn Iraq's cities into an arena for political vendetta… No laws or morals condone political assassinations… and the Iraqis are expecting true and honest input in the building of a lawful state…" [4]

II. Terror in Baghdad (Continued)

The Iraqi press continued to comment on the terror and sabotage operations in Iraq and their effects on the Iraqi people. All the editorials unanimously condemned these acts and maintained that they hurt the Iraqi people more than anyone else. The following is a review of the most recent editorials:

The daily Al-Nahdha (affiliated with Dr. 'Adnan Al-Pachachi) declared: "The first order of national business is to fight terrorism," because of its negative psychological effects on the people and their morale. The paper went on to say that these acts are "part of a criminal plan… that prevents the Iraqis from establishing a new democratic life [and] re-building and developing their country… The failure of the Coalition Provisional Administration (CPA) in solving this problem may produce further instability, dissatisfaction, disappointments, and an environment that breeds more crimes and success to the criminals, whether they come from inside Iraq or [from] the outside…" [5]

Reporting on the same subject, the daily Al-Sabah (published by the Iraqi Information Services) stated that "the Governing Council and L. Paul Bremer, head of the CPA, agreed to impose harsher punishments [for] security crimes in an effort to curb terror attempts." The paper added that the Governing Council, in its meeting on August 23, was due to discuss the situation and take steps to "close the gaps and put an end to terrorist acts…" [6]

Al-Ittihad (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan - PUK) published an editorial titled "The Sabotage Hurts No One But the Iraqi People." It stated: "those who commit these acts are unhappy to see a free and democratic Iraq… [T]here are those who, unknowingly, describe these acts as 'resistance'… but does resistance mean sabotaging the electrical power network… or sabotaging the oil pipeline that helps re-build the Iraqi economy and is considered one of its main foundations…?" The paper asserted that it is not opposed to freedom of expression, but opposition should be expressed in a manner that convinces the world in its soundness "and proves that we are civilized…" [7]

The daily Al-Zaman (independent) takes issue with some public opinion surveys conducted by the Arab media regarding the terror and sabotage acts in Iraq. The paper considers such surveys "political blackmail" and says that "the Iraqis' battle today is multifaceted, and is not just against the occupation. It is a battle against the environmental, psychological, political, economic, and moral devastation that was left behind by an astonishing and horrifying regime that ruled a rich country and an ancient people with no consideration [of] history and no justice to the country and its people… Therefore, it is not moral or wise… to take advantage of the majority of people by conducting extemporaneous and biased surveys about sensitive issues that deal with the future [of Iraq]." The paper concluded by saying that the Iraqis know more than others that such surveys are common Arab tactics which imply that you can be either a victim or a partner in crime. [8]

On the other hand, Al-Mutamar (affiliated with the Iraqi National Congress - INC) maintains that "security will not be attained unless economic provisions are made to provide the Iraqi citizens with honest employment… so that each individual feels the difference between the past and the future…" [9]

The daily Al-Shira' (independent) maintains that the sabotage acts "are not only the result of an American security failure, but also the result of a political failure to understand in a timely fashion the strengths and weaknesses of Iraqi society, which led the American administration to disregard the heritage of Iraq completely… and deal with it as if [the country] is no more than a branch of the Ba'ath Party…" [10]

An op-ed in Al-Zaman asked whether "the Iraqis' fate is such that their country is forever an incubator for armies, militias, and bloody institutions and whether the Iraqis will always be hostages to armies, organizations, or doctrine…?" The article asked: "And who benefits from killing peace activists, physicians, nurses and drivers of humanitarian-aid caravans? And when did the murder of children and clergy become permissible [in Islam]…" [11]

Focusing on the role of the U.N. in Iraq, particularly after the bombing of its headquarters in Baghdad, Al-Ittihad said in another editorial that "the time has come to absolve the U.N. organization in Iraq from the crimes of the dead regime." The paper explains that these organizations were fraught with "chaos, destruction and disrespectability during the reign of the despots, because elements of the Iraqi Mukhabarat [secret service] infiltrated organizations such as the FAO [agriculture], UNDP [development assistance], WHO [health], UNHCR [refugees], WFP [food program], and HABITAT [housing]…" The paper further describes how Saddam's agents manipulated the international organizations and curtailed their activities, suggesting the establishment of a committee to investigate "the wrongdoings committed against the Iraqi people… add[ing] them to the list of murders, mass graves, and chemical weapons [that Saddam's regime amassed]… We are certain that investigating this dangerous matter will clear the humanitarian organization from the crimes of the former regime…" [12]

And in an editorial, Al-Zaman compares the attack against the U.N. headquarters to "an attack on the artificial lung that helps sustain the Iraqi people…" while the assassination attempt against the Shi'a leader Muhammad Sa'id Al-Hakim is described by the paper as an attack against "the artificial lung of moderation, middle-of-the-road [thinking] and forgiveness, which the saboteurs in all their disguises seek to deprive the Iraqi people from having…" [13]

III. Arab Policies Towards the New Iraq Revisited

The Iraqi press continued to express its ire against Arab policies towards post-Saddam Iraq. An op-ed published by Al-Mutamar takes issue with Syria's position in the U.N. Security Council in which it abstained from supporting Iraq's Governing Council. The article states that Syria justifies its position by saying that it complies with the Arab League's decision in this issue. It then goes on to question the legitimacy of the regimes that make up the Arab League and points out that none of the Arab regimes have been elected in a democratic process. The article singles out the manner in which Bashar Al-Assad inherited the presidency after his father's death and recalls how Syrian fighter planes stopped the uprising in Hama, and asked again whether this is the sign of Syrian legitimacy. The article also admonishes and criticizes the rest of the Arab countries for their silence regarding the horrific crimes that occurred in Iraq and were seen on television screens, while the rest of the world took a clear humanitarian position. The article concludes by stating that the only thing that Iraqis want from the Arab countries and the Arab League is for them to leave the Iraqis to determine their own fate. [14]

The daily Al-'Adala (affiliated with the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) titled its editorial "Stop Hurting Iraq" and stated that it is ironic that "the [Arab] media sheds crocodile tears over democracy in Iraq while there are many questions about applying the same standards in most of the Arab countries. Worse than that is the fact that these institutions spread the news about terrorist activities, therefore satisfying the terrorists' arrogance…" The paper specifically criticizes Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya television channels, stating that their policies seem to have no other goal but to create strife among the Iraqis and aid terror activities that are destroying the lives of the Iraqis. [15]

The independent daily Al-Manar said in its editorial that during Saddam Hussein's reign, the relations between Iraq and other Arab countries were subject to Saddam's whims, and after his fall there was hope of building new relationships based on common interests and brotherhood. "However," the paper continues, "what happened was far from these hopes… [T]he Arab countries… refused to recognize the Governing Council, and Iraq's chair in the Arab League is now vacant…" The paper complimented the Governing Council for refraining from attacking other Arab countries and for trying to explain its position to them. [16]

The weekly organ of the Iraqi Communist Party, Tareeq Al-Sha'b, wonders in its editorial how it is that the Arab countries and Arab media tout the terror activities in Iraq as 'patriotic resistance, ' but "massacred such 'resistance' when it happened within their borders and called it terrorism and radicalism…" The paper added that this behavior "is paradoxical… They [the Arab countries] are trying to use it to cover up even worse positions in the past in which they supported the regime of mass graves. They are dreaming about its return [the Saddam regime] to obliterate what is left of our Iraqi people and its human resources, but a dream such as this will only bring them shame and defeat." [17]

IV. Kurds and Turkmen

An editorial by Al-Taakhi (PUK) focused primarily on recent clashes between Kurds and Turkmen in northern Iraq. According to the paper these "regrettable clashes are no different than what happened in Baghdad, Basra, Tikrit, Al-Ramadi and other [places]. They are all attempts to spread fear and instability and to paint the situation as hopeless…" The paper also says that the recent clashes bear the seeds of "grave dangers concerning the rights of Kurds, Turkmen, and others and [are meant to] justify the calls for outside intervention…" The paper urges the Kurds, being the larger group, to show restraint and asked the Turkmen to resist provocation and be patient. [18]

V. The Referendum:

An Urgent National Necessity

An editorial by the weekly Al-Rihab (published by the Democratic Alliance of the Monarchy) emphasized the need for a referendum to determine whether Iraq will be a republic or a monarchy, and said that "all the national Iraqi movements agreed in their conference in London on the 13th of January [2003] to carry out such a referendum, which was one of the most significant democratic symbolisms towards a popular healthy constitution… We maintain that having a referendum before forging the constitution will open up wide horizons in front of Iraq… and will prevent [later] popular demands to amend it or change it especially since… public opinion surveys… have shown that the majority of Iraqis support the return of monarchy and consider it the model for the development and success of democracy…" [19]

News and Headlines

An Iraqi Expert: High Probability of Using Iraq's Airspace in an Israeli Military Operation Against Iran

The daily Al-Shira' (independent) claimed that 17 Israeli military experts spent some time recently in Iraq to study the possibility of using Iraq's airspace, in case other Arab airspace is not available, in a possible attack against Iranian nuclear plants. The paper quoted "an Iraqi military expert" as saying that "there are strategic factors in favor of using Iraq's airspace in such a military operation…" [20]

CPA Deletes the Motto 'Allah Akbar' from the Iraqi Flag

"The CPA deleted the motto 'Allah Akbar' from the flag of the Iraqi Republic… Recent official Iraqi correspondence contained the image of the Iraqi flag without this inscription, which was added by the deposed president Saddam Hussein during the second Gulf war twelve years ago…" [21]

A Demonstration in Al-Ramadi Against the Jordanian Government

Al-Mutamar (INC) reports that the Governing Council expressed its support to the owners of Iraq's printing houses who recently protested the farming out by the Ministry of Education, during Saddam's regime, of the printing of Iraqi textbooks to Jordanian companies. The protesters maintain that despite the "dawning of a new era, following the demise of the deposed regime which was based on briberies and commissions, the Ministry of Education is still following the old policies… and is hurting the Iraqi national economy…" The paper stated that the Governing Council will try to cancel the contracts and bring the jobs back to Iraq. [22]

An Organized Campaign to 'Kurdisize' the Arabs

Al-Iraq Al-Jadid (independent) wrote about an organized campaign in the border areas with Iran (Al-Shahabi and Sheikh Omar) to "Kurdisize [in contrast with Saddam's effort to 'Arabize' the Kurds] Arab families who were tempted with a lot of cash, promises of monthly salaries and other concessions." It is part of an effort to create a Kurdish area that would be incorporated into the future Turkish component of the proposed Iraqi federation. [23]

Headlines

- "Iraqi police arrest four who confessed to the crime [the explosion in Al-Najaf] and to ties to Al-Qa'ida. The criminals planned to attack other leaders, power and oil plants, and water resources." [24]

- "An Israeli journalist sneaks into Al-Najaf." [25]

- "A secret American plan to resume pumping Iraqi oil via [the] Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline." [26]

- "Bahraini and UAE companies cooperated with Zionist companies in investing in Iraq." [27]

- "Iranians steal Iraqi antiquities and books." [28]

- "Dr. Ahmad Al-Chalabi is favored to rule Iraq." [29]

- "Representative of the Turkmen Front in Baghdad: We want to be part of Iraq, not part of the Kurds." [30]

- "Washington urged the Arab League to lift its reservations towards the Governing Council." [31]

Annex V: Iraqi Leadership Profiles

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Ashaiqer Al-Ja'fari

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Ashaiqer Al-Ja'fari has just completed his role as the first president of the Iraqi Governing Council for the month of August. Ja'fari, the spokesman of the Islamic Da'wa Party, was chosen to be the Council's president based on his name being the first alphabetically among the nine council members who will share the rotating presidency. The members of Governing Council were appointed by the CPA on July 17, 2003.

Ibrahim Al-Ashaiqer [32] was born in the city of Karbala in 1947. He attended both primary and secondary schools in that city which, in 1968, witnessed the first wave of what was termed as "Shi'a politicization" and the rise of the influence of the Islamic Da'wa Party (Islamic Missionary Party) [33] under the leadership of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr and others. [34]

Al-Ja'fari joined the Da'wa party in 1968 but continued his education at Mosul University, earning a medical degree in 1974. Upon completing his education he returned to Karbala to immerse himself in political activity. As the conflict between the Da'wa Party and the Ba'ath authorities intensified in the late 1970s, Saddam Hussein resorted to political liquidations on a large scale, including the assassination of Ayatollah Al-Sadr. In 1980, Al-Ja'fari was able to flee to Iran. Unable to engage in political activities independent of the Iranian "party line," Al-Ja'fari moved to England in 1989.

Free for the first time from the politically oppressive environments in Iraq and Iran, Al-Ashaiqer/Al-Ja'fari was able to return attention to the "Iraqi Shi'a identity" and was able to interact with other Iraqi parties in exile, offering innovative ideas about a democratic future for Iraq. In fact, the Islamic Da'wa party was able to establish what was termed as "flexible alliances" with other leaders in exile. Al-Ja'fari was instrumental in his party's decision to take part in the meetings in 1991, in Beirut, of the national action committee which was the precursor of the Iraqi National Congress. His activities, inclined toward political pragmatism, were opposed by another wing of the Da'wa Party led by Abu Bilal al-Adib who supported the Iranian agenda. [35]

The Islamic Da'wa Party

The Islamic Da'wa Party was established in 1958 and is considered the oldest Islamist movement in Iraq. It is based "on the ideology of reforming Islamic thought and modernizing religious institutions." [36] The party was banned by Saddam Hussein in 1980 because of its association with Iran. Da'wa members either joined the Iranian military units during the war with Iraq or refrained from political activity altogether. Members of the party staged a major assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in July 1982, bombed the ministry of planning in August 1982, and attacked Saddam's motorcade in April 1987. [37] As a result, thousands of its members were executed and many others fled Iraq.

While Al-Ja'fari is committed to a democratic Iraq, his own party still advocates some form of Islamic government. For example, an editorial in the party's organ, Al-Da'wa, laments a decision by the Governing Council to exclude Islamic education from school curriculum and to replace it with "religious ethics and values." "We are awaiting the days," writes the paper, "when our people will be the source of [our] strength, and our divine faith the basis of [our] laws…" [38]

Ja'fari as First President of Governing Council

During his term as the first president of the Governing Council Al-Ja'fari traveled to a number of Arab countries seeking recognition for the Council as a legitimate governing organ of Iraq in the face of its rejection by some of the least democratic countries in the Middle East such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. These governments have insisted that the only legitimate government in Iraq is an elected government by the people. In fact, the foreign ministers of the three countries met in Cairo on August 11 to declare that the Council does not carry the legitimacy for governing. [39] These governments were supported by the Arab League whose Secretary General, Amru Moussa, could find nothing wrong with Saddam Hussein that deserved criticism. It was interesting that the Editor-in-Chief of the Egyptian weekly Al-Mussawar, Makram Muhammad Ahmad, who is reported to be close to "the presidency in Egypt" has sharply criticized the decision of the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher and the Arab League's Secretary General Amru Moussa for failing to recognize the Governing Council and for rendering the role of Arab countries to that of a "spectator" of the Iraqi scene. [40]

As a result of Al-Ja'fari's and other Council members' efforts, a number of Arab countries have decided to break ranks with the Arab League and recognize the Council. These include Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Kuwait, and a qualified endorsement from Jordan. In addition, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Romania, and Spain have all recognized the Council. [41] In fact, a day before Al-Ja'fari's arrival in Amman, newspaper editorials ridiculed the demand for an elected government in Iraq in the absence of one single elected Arab government to serve as an example for Iraq. [42]

Tendency for Imprecision in Public Statements

Al-Ja'fari has shown a tendency for making unsubstantiated statements. For example: Diplomatic circles in Amman defined him as "hesitant, mumbling a lot, speaking like university professors or politicized doctors… not choosing words carefully… not reflecting diplomatic or political experience… saying in front of the microphone facts that reflect his negotiations in the corridors for recognition." [43]

Perhaps the most egregious case is his statement that Iraq owes Jordan $1 billion. In response, officials in the Iraqi ministry of finance showed records that demonstrate that it was Jordan who owed Iraq "billions of dollars." They characterize Al-Ja'fari statement as representing "a violation of the most basic political responsibility… and that the statement could place Iraq in great legal jeopardy in the future." [44] In another statement, Al-Ja'fari said Iraq would join the Gulf Cooperation Council. [45]

Obviously, such a major decision cannot be taken in the absence of Iraq's full sovereignty and is subject to agreement between the parties.

Regarding the new cabinet, which was announced on September 1, Al-Ja'fari said: "It will be formed on the basis of respect for diversity…We differentiate between sectarianism that deepens division and being sensible to acknowledge that our country has a geography with different national groups." [46] This proved to be wishful thinking. The cabinet portfolios were distributed on a sectarian basis. Al-Ja'fari himself would say in Amman not long after that "the Shi'a are convinced that they need not make any concessions about the size of their share in government. Their presence in the decision making bodies and parliament in the future will be compatible with their numbers and their weight in society. It is an historical right that should not be conceded." The Shi'a, he said, will avoid any confrontation with the Americans unless they realize that "their future share [in government] is threatened by any number of reasons." [47]

While in Beirut, Al-Ja'fari made another categorical statement, this time on Israel. He pledged: "Israel will never set foot inside Iraq." [48]

Realistic Assessments

By contrast, Al-Ja'fari made a number of statements on the relationships between the Governing Council and the CPA, all of which demonstrate political realism. In an interview with the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, he said: "[W]e coordinate our positions [with the CPA]. It [CPA] represents the will of the civil administration in Iraq. The occupation is a fait accompli and we deal with this situation as a temporary one. We hope the day will come when the occupation would lose its justification so that Iraq will enjoy its full rights." [49] No less significant is the statement he made upon arriving in Kuwait. In it, Al-Ja'fari said: "Kuwait will remain in southern Iraq and Iraq will remain in northern Kuwait. This is a fact that we have to fully accept… we have to restore our relations to their old [pre-Saddam] status while each of the two countries ought to preserve its sovereignty." [50]


[1] Editorials from the New Iraqi Press: MEMRI Baghdad Dispatch (6).

[2] Al-Sabah, August 30, 2003.

[3] Al-Manar, August 31, 2003.

[4] Al-Zaman, August 30-31, 2003.

[5] Al-Nahdha, August 23, 2003.

[6] Al-Sabah, August 23, 2003.

[7] Al-Ittihad, August 23, 2003.

[8] Al-Zaman, August 30-31, 2003.

[9] Al-Mu'tamar, August 30, 2003.

[10] Al-Shira', August 23, 2003.

[11] Al-Zaman, August 29-30, 2003.

[12] Al-Ittihad, August 23, 2003.

[13] Al-Zaman, August 28, 2003.

[14] Al-Mutamar, August 23, 2003.

[15] Al-'Adala, August 25, 2003.

[16] Al-Manar, August 31, 2003.

[17] Tareeq Al-Sha'b, August 23-30, 2003.

[18] Al-Taakhi, August 24, 2003.

[19] Al-Rihab, September 1, 2003.

[20] Al-Shira', August 23, 2003.

[21] Al-Destour (independent), August 23, 2003.

[22] Al-Mutamar, August 23, 2003.

[23] Al-Iraq Al-Jadeed, September 1, 2003.

[24] Al-Sabah, August 31, 2003.

[25] Al-Sa'a, August 23, 2003.

[26] Al-Taakhi, August 25, 2003.

[27] Al-Sa'a, August 23, 2003.

[28] Al-Sa'a, August 23, 2003.

[29] Al-Destour (independent), August 23, 2003.

[30] Al-Shira', August 26, 2003.

[31] Al-Zaman, August 28, 2003.

[32] We have no record of when Ibrahim Al-Ashaiqer became Ibrahim Al-Ja'afari, a name by which he is currently identified in the press.

[33] Unlike the traditional Christian missions, the Da'wa party was not engaged in proselytizing activities outside the Shi'a community.

[34] Baqir Al-Sadr and two of his sons were assassinated by Saddam Hussein. The surviving son, Muqtada Al-Sader, is a rising figure among young Shi'a men. He will be the subject of a biographical note to be issued by MEMRI.

[35] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 24, 2003.

[36] AlBawaba, July 30, 2003.

[37] www.Iraqnews.com/party_islamic-daawa_party.shtml.

[38] Al-Da'wa, August 6, 2003.

[39] Al-Zaman, August 19, 2003.

[40] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 24, 2003.

[41] Al-Zaman, August 19, 2003.

[42] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 27, 2003.

[43] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 27, 2003.

[44] Al-Mu'tamar, August 30, 2003.

[45] Al-Hayat (London), August 28, 2003.

[46] Daily Star (Lebanon), August 1, 2003.

[47] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 27, 2003.

[48] Daily News (Lebanon), August 20, 2003.

[49] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 27, 2003. A similar statement was carried by Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London) of the same date.

[50] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 21, 2003.