Sunday, April 15, 2007

So it goes

Al-Hayat says:
An organization called the Federal Democratic Iraq Gathering (Southern region council) held its first convention yesterday to announce the provisional leadership of the South, but there was a noticeable absense of political authorities and parliamentarians, something some observes take as a clear message of complete rejection [of the project by the politicians].
So reads the concluding paragraph in a news item that is otherwise devoted to detailing the criticisms of this project by a variety of members of the national parliament. The piece opens like this:
A number of members of the Iraqi parliament criticized the convention that was held yesterday in Baghdad which announced what it called "provisional leadership for the South" comprised of the three provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar and Maysan. [The parliamentarians] stressed that most of the political blocs agreed on postponing the question of decisions respecting [establishment of federal] regions.
And the journalist quotes parliamentarians representing the Sadrists, the UIA (Shiite) generally, and the Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni), all in opposition to the idea of raising this kind of issue at the present time.

There is a prominent report this morning that has the meaning of this backwards. Juan Cole writes:
In Baghdad, al-Hayat says that a group of Iraqi parliamentarians held a conference to announce the formation of the "Provisional Command of the Southern Region," comprising Basra, Dhi Qar and Maysan provinces. The politicians said that most blocs in parliament agreed with the establishment of such a provincial confederacy. [140 MPs voted to expedite this process last October.]
This is apparently a case of mistranslating the initial verb "they criticized" as if it meant "they agreed", and then somehow scanning the rest of the piece to suit. (UPDATE: I figured out what he probably did: The verb intaqada "[the politicians] criticized", looks a lot like the verb aqada "[the politicians] held" (a meeting), so he thought it was the politicians that held that meeting, and that got him off on the wrong foot.)

In any event, the Al-Hayat piece doesn't say anything else about the conference itself. For instance, the reporter doesn't say who attended the conference, or who the "provisional leadership" is. And when he says most parliamentary blocs oppose bringing this up right now, he implies that some blocs support the idea, but he doesn't say which ones.

(For background on the idea of a three-province federal unit in the South, see Reidar Visser's essay Basra Crude: The great game of Iraq's "Southern" Oil, discussed here.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually both of you are right :).
Neither of you are wrong, at least in translating the article its just you both chose to emphasis certain parts.
For example when Cole said:

"The politicians said that most blocs in parliament agreed with the establishment of such a provincial confederacy."

He was translating:

"فمن حق كل محافظة منفردة او مجموعة من المحافظات اعلان حكومة مستقلة ترتبط بالحكومة الموحدة والمركزية بالاستناد على قاعدة واسس تشكيل الاقاليم»."

and the rest is what you translated.
The main theme of the article though is what you mentioned so your closer to the truth.
But you also missed out on an important aspect of the article and it was, at least what was written in the article, that the Baghdad government doesn't oppose the idea of confederacy it opposes the timing.
I personally don't think the shia bloc in Baghdad would stand against such a move its just maybe they don't want to encourage such a move in Kirkuk so they want the southerners to wait till the Kirkuk issue is resolved, thats my take.

5:13 AM  
Blogger badger said...

That's ridiculous. The passage you quote is part of what the Iraqi Accord Front person said. After agreeing with the other quoted politicians in rejecting raising this at the present time, he adds, "that doesn't mean we reject regions, because [and here comes the part you cite in your defence] it is within the rights of any province or group of provinces to announce formation of an independent government linked to the central government, according to the principles for the formation of regions."

As I noted in the post, all the politicians quoted, including this Accord Front person, reject the raising of this issue "at the present time", and that is the whole point of the article.

When you say that the "parliamentarians held a conference", that is wrong, because the parliamentarians didn't hold the conference, they criticized the conference, and when you say they said most of the blocs agreed with the establishment of such a provincial confederacy, that is wrong too, because they all opposed raising the issue at this time, and only one added the proviso that regions are okay in principle if they are set up in accord with the established rules.

We all make mistakes, but I guess not all of us face up to them.

6:13 AM  
Blogger annie said...

by posting anonymously nobody has to eat crow. i wonder if cole will update.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger, Reidar Visser has two more recent articles on the same subject that may be helpful too:
I had been meaning to ask your opinion of the poll Visser was analyzing, because whichever way I look at it, I simply can't see Sadr City residents being pro-federalism.


3:40 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Alamet, let me look at that and I'll put my two cents here on that tomorrow.

Also by the way, as you may know, he has a free subscription service anyone can sign up for, which sent out today a short item on the topic of this "council of the south" thing, the gist of which is that it's a bit of a mystery who the people are who held this recent "council of the south" conference, but he has some thoughts on it.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous gj said...

That particular poll has a big question mark over it because 35% of the respondants are Arab Sunnis ...overestimating their demographic ( as demonstrated in the 05 Constitutional vote and the Jan 06 election) by at least 15%.

This may not affect the results southern provinces Mr Visser is examining but it certainly skews the rest of the findings towards an anti-occupation/invasion position.

10:52 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Alamet, I agree, there is something unexplainable about the Sadr City results in that poll. Visser offers a range of possible explanations, to which I can't really add anything. Don't forget we're talking about only 48 Sadr City interviews...

gj, He links to an ABC methodological note on the issue of Sunni population-share, and in any event your idea that shifting that weight could result in a more pro-occupation/invasion result is your usual stuff. Please take it elsewhere.

4:08 AM  

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