Saturday, November 18, 2006

Al-Dhari's offence: He had been in talks with five heads of Arab states and the Arab League

The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman leads its Iraq-crisis story this morning (Saturday November 18) with this: "The Association of Muslim Scholars asked the Arab League to intervene with the government of Iraq and to halt the arrest warrant against Al-Dhari...and a number of Arab governments have asked Prime Minister Malaki to calm the situation by rescinding the warrant, which has caused a storm of protest in Baghdad and in other Arab capitals."

The Azzaman account also tells us some of the activities Al-Dhari had been involved in just prior to this arrest-warrant being issued. "[He] had been having conversations about the political process in Iraq with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Jordanian king Abdullah II, the president of Syria Bashar Al-Asad, the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa, and the president of the UAE; and also he had discussions in Cairo with a number of Egyptian authorities and also with Arab League secretary-general Amr Musa. And this [series of high-level talks] was what stirred up the resentment in Baghdad."

Azzaman adds: A reliable source said there were even efforts to scuttle Maliki's recent visit to Ankara, where Al-Dhari has a close relationship with Prime Minister Erdoghan. As it turned out, the announcement of the arrest warrant came while Maliki was in talks with Erdoghan.

The ultimate effect of the warrant-issuance was to make Al-Dhari appear as the leader of the Iraqi Sunnis, the newspaper says. The major Iraqi Sunni political parties lined up in solidarity with him, including those that had had public differences with him as recently as last month, including the Dialogue Front (Saleh al-Matlak), Islamic Party (Hashimi) and the National Accord (Dulaimi).

The big London dailies, Al-Quds al-Arabi and Al-Hayat, for their part, display countervailing spins on the fallout from this: Al-Quds quotes a number of leaders of the parties that are components of the Iraqi Accord alliance, threatening to exit the political process. (For instance, the Islamic Party called the warrant the "bullet representing the coup de grace for the National Reconciliation process," putting it out of its misery). Al-Hayat, by contrast, quotes extensively from remarks by an official spokesman for the Iraqi Accord itself urging a resumption of the political process based on the original multi-party agreement that was the basis for the formation of the Maliki government, and a document the Accord has prepared, which includes something the Accord spokesman called a "road-map for an exit from the crisis".

And the Americans, what are they hearing about this? Juan Cole cites the Azzaman story this morning, leaves out the main point about talks with Arab heads of state, notes that a couple of Shiites support Al-Dhari, and takes care to remind us that Al-Dhari is "accused of inciting to terrorism". (Actually he isn't, if the government spokesman is correct and this is merely an investigation warrant). But you get the picture.


Post a Comment

<< Home