Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter !!!

Iraqi parties and groups failed to agree on a prime minister, pushing the parliamentary meeting a few days ahead. It has been more than 4 months since Iraqis risked their lives to elect this group of power-hungry clique and still, no government. Funny that they used to criticize Saddam for doing everything to stay in power. While they are not as bad as Saddam (well, some are), they are getting closer to his level of badness with passing of every day.

Somebody sent me this link (12 minutes tape). It is a very interesting report about what one Iraqi Jews calls a "split personality".

Regardless of what the agenda of this project is, the interviews herein are exactly the same as what I hear from my Iraqi-Jewish friends and the Iraqi-Jews who came from Israel and stayed at the hotel I worked for when I was a struggling MA student in San Francisco. While they embrace their Israeli citizenship, the also spoke with tears about their memories in Iraq, or the memories of their parents. It shows us how silly this conflict really is.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A few days ago, Egypt's President accused the Shi'a in Iraq and the Gulf region of holding loyalty to Iran rather than to their countries. Here is my response from Al-Ahram Weekly.

The demonisation of the Arab Shia wherever they live in the Arab world is not new. In modern times, this practice began by the ideologues of Arab nationalism who revised history and created a scapegoat for the failing of their ideology, having been supported by intolerant religious leaders. The symptoms of this folly then moved fast to the mostly semi-illiterate part of the Arab masses and finally found its way to the corridors of politics. The Shia were said to be responsible for the killing of the third caliph, Othman, the wars against the fourth caliph, Ali, the killing of Imam Hussein, the fall of the Umayyad state and the fall of Baghdad in the hands of the Mongols. Hence, Shiism came to be considered, as Ahmed Amin put it in his book Fajr Al-Islam, "a refuge for anyone who wanted to destroy Islam".

In the current times, this practice is on the rise. The most recent accusation by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak that the Shia "are mostly always loyal to Iran and not to the countries where they live" were preceded by statement of King Abdullah of Jordan alleging the rise of a "Shia Crescent" threatening the region as he perceived it. While the allegation of the Jordanian king was a novelty so absurd that even he did not stand by it, President Mubarak's statement is more deep-rooted in the minds of many people who suffer from the Shia scare.

The corollary of this statement is that the Shia are traitors and potential domestic enemies to their own countries. It is highly disturbing that the president of a major Arab country would think in this manner about a population that, in his words, amounts to 65 per cent in a country such as Iraq. It is no wonder that the Shia of Iraq view the silence of Arab governments towards the atrocious crimes of Saddam Hussein as a sign of consent, if not encouragement. After all, for Arab governments and many in their intellectually sequestered populations, the Shia are nothing but "Iranian agents" who represent the worm in the otherwise very healthy Arab apple.

As an Iraqi Shia, I have seen during my entire time in the country discriminatory practice of the Baathist regime, which was a continuation of the past governments ever since the Ottoman times. There had been walls after walls between the Shia individual and any rights if this individual refused to sell his soul to the devil; the devil being the armies of regime security institutions whose only job was to hunt down "domestic enemies", the agents of Iran and America at the same time, mind you!

It is past due to set the record straight, at least by visiting a few facts as this limited space may allow. In spite of centuries of Ottoman abuse against the Shia of Iraq, they sided with the Ottomans against the British after World War I and fought the British in the 1920 Revolution, which forced the British to give up their plan to annex Iraq. For all of their sacrifices, they were not given even one ministry. And until 1936, the entire senior officer corps in the Iraqi army had one Shia officer only, a major named Hussein Alwan. Furthermore, of all the coups and conspiracies against the Iraqi government in 1936, 1941, 1958, 1963 and 1968, none was a Shia affair. It goes without saying that the war against Iran, financed and praised by Western and Arab countries was fought by the alleged "Iranian agents", the Shia, who paid the heaviest casualties.

There is no question that the Shia feel certain affinity to their coreligionists in Iran. But this is a far cry from the allegation that the Shia are traitors. Sectarian affinity, however, does not capture the whole story. Our Arab brothers have done nothing to embrace us, as they keep demanding proofs of "loyalty", whatever that means. From the organised atrocities in Iraq to the denial of our existence in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. This abominable hostility among the Muslim community has lasted for centuries because no sustained effort was ever made to end it. Indeed, it has always been more fashionable to compete in adding more fuel to the raging fire.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Al-Sabah, the Iraqi semi-official paper, reported that the city council of Babil (Babylon) passed a binding resolution to suspend any cooperation with the Americans, citing American lack of seriousness about finishing the reconstruction projects.
The paper quoted Qasim al-Jarrah, an engineer and a member of the city council as saying, "We did not sense any seriousness on the part of the Americans concerning the reconstruction." He told the paper that the Americans abandoned 12 projects they already promised to finish within the coming 90 days.

US exit strategy as announced by Washington's officials rarely counts reconstruction as an important element. This is not prudent, because any exit strategy has to possess three legs: security, functional government, and reconstruction.

Of course, in criticizing the exit strategy, we have to assume that these guys really want to exit.

The paper also reported on the city council's emphasis on the federalist plans for the south and central areas of Iraq. A meeting is to be held in Karbala later this month to discuss the details. This issue is going to be at the center of a heated debate when/if the government is formed.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Az-Zaman, Iraq daily newspaper, reported that Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani refused to interfere in the dispute over the nomination of a prime minister for the next four years. According to the paper, Sistani's deputy in Karbala asked the groups within the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) to remain united if they want to keep his blessings. The paper added that the situation in Najaf, where the four grand Ayatollahs reside, is full with apprehension. Militia men from Al-Mahdi Army loyal to Moqtada Al-Sadr and others from the Supreme Council (SCIRI) loyal to the Hakim family took their positions on the streets of the city in case of any escalation.

After months of relative calm, Najaf witnessed a car bomb killing ten people and wounding others.

Az-Zaman, like other Iraqi papers continued covering the attack on the Baratha mosque, where Iraqi clergyman and member of the parliament, Jalal Al-Din Al-Saghir leads the Friday prayer. Three suicide bombers (useful idiots for the Iraqi branch of the Wahhabi cult) wearing women clothes to avoid thorough search entered the mosque and caused some nasty carnage, killing 80 Shi'a worshippers and wounding 160 others. The Baratha mosque is 1,200 years old and it was subject to Sunni wrath. It was destroyed many times and many Shi'a worshipers were killed in it with every attack. The mosque is the symbol of Shi'i resilience in Baghdad. It is also associated with many leading Shi'i scholars who led the prayer in it over the centuries. Jalal Al-Din Al-Saghir was not hurt in the attack.

The paper also quotes US Ambassador Khalilzad as saying that "the world community's patience has run out" concerning the formation of an Iraqi government. Khalilzad should have expected this delay when he insisted on trashing the results of the elections and impose a so-called "unity government" on Iraq. Also, the delay is because he keeps his veto on the UIA nominee for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, without having the leverage to impose another nominee, thus creating an unnecessary stalemate.
Khalilzad said, according to the paper, that his negotiations with the insurgents have "decreased the attacks." Tell it to those 240 innocents slaughtered or wounded at Baratha mosque and the ones who died in the past days!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The political chances of Iraqi PM Ibrahim Ja'afari hang now in the hands of Moqtada al-Sadr. If the opposition to him increase substantially inside the UIA -- there are no signs on this taking place yet -- then Sadr will have to drop Ja'afari, but don't be so sure that his demands for doing so maybe tolerated. Indeed, he might spoil the whole process and ask for a PM close to him, by pressing impossible demands for allowing Adel Abdelmahdi (a candidate Moqtada would rather not see on the winning stage.)

Also, it is likely that the fall of Ja'afari will be combined by the fall of Talabani from the Presidency, or Zibari from the ministry of foreign affairs as a payoff (read punishment for opposing Ja'afari). It is interesting that the Iraqi official TV (al-Iraqiyya) which is close to Sadr and Ja'afari broadcast yesterday an hour-long interview with Fassal al-G'oud of the Province of Anbar, who is obviously a Sunni Arab and a candidate for the presidency running against Talabani. I must admit that this "outsider" came across as much more convincing than Talabani and the rest of the stooges in Baghdad. Was this a message? You bet!!

Also, the visit of both Ms. Rice and Mr. Straw to Baghdad at this time will make any changes seen as an arm twist to those who blink -- very bad for their legitimacy and the "integrity" of the process, but worse for Khalilzad who is going to appear the wrong guy he always has been.

At any event, most of the agreements that have been reached so far were made with the understanding that Ja'afari will be the PM and Talabani the Prez. If this will no longer to be the case, I am afraid that a new marathon has to be run to make new arrangements. The greatest loser in this case will be Iraq and its people, I mean the one's residing out of the la-la land (the Green Zone).

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