Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another question

The government-run newspaper Al-Sabah ran a tiny three-sentence note about a proposed draft to amend the law on DeBaathification, stressing that the announcement from the President and the Prime Minister contained no details whatsoever. Al-Mada, which is a pro-Talabani paper, said nothing about the proposal. Azzman, in its domestic Iraq edition, said nothing about it either, but ran a story in its international edition that concluded: "Some fear that the timing of this proposal reflects an attempt to calm Arab anxieties [likely to be expressed] at the Riyadh summit on the collapsed situation in Iraq". Al-Sabah al-Jadida ran a small item that described the proposal in terms of technical adjustments to already-existing DeBaathification provisions.

In other words, although the Sunni-oriented Azzaman was slightly more interested in this than the government-oriented papers (but not in its domestic edition), the broad consensus in the Iraqi press was that this is not history-making. By contrast, the NYT, WaPo and AP all took this up as if it represents a definitive change in policy-direction for the Maliki administration, and the culmination of months of hard work by the departing US ambassador Khalilzad. Good work, Ambassador! One problem seems to have been that the Iraqi journalists, untrained in Western journalistic standards, would have asked questions of the Embassy about this, like: If this is a major reconciliation measure, why is there only minimal Iraqi coverage of it; why are there no expressions of support for this from the Sunni parties; is the Chalabi De-Baathification organization in fact going to be disbanded; why is this being announced on the day of Khalilzad's farewell press-conference; and so on.

But the other question this raises is: What is the intended audience for this, if it is not the Iraqi people? Part of the answer is suggested in the Azzaman excerpt cited above, namely the easing of pressure from the Riyadh summit. Another target could be the US Congress.


Anonymous Rosemary said...

Your last sentence solves the mystery.

U.S. Congress Members (on key committees at least) need to put someone on their staffs who will focus on foreign media and the independent translations of the original languages, paying special attention to differences between the original and the English-language editions.

It's obvious. I wonder how many do that?

8:20 PM  

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