Friday, August 31, 2007

Coming soon to US media outlets: "Allawi rejoins the political process"

Ayad Allawi met with a group of politicians in Sulaimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan, yesterday, including Ambassador Crocker, the two Kurdish leaders Talabani and Barzani, deputy premier Barham Saleh, and others including a former president of the Iraqi parliament, according to Al-Quds al-Arabi. Allawi said he is there for two days of talks, mentioning specifically patching up relations between his Iraqi List and the two big Kurdish parties. But the journalist says the purpose of the larger meeting including Crocker and the rest, was to strengthen participation in the political process following the recent four-party agreement. He says it is expected Allawi will participate in a coming round of meetings on this, if not in person then represented by a group from his party.

But the journalist intimates this is in large part a show aimed at the American people, writing as follows:
According to sources, Allawi's decision to participate came after several ministers in his Iraqi List refused to submit their resignations [apparently meaning, from Malaki's cabinet], and also following American pressure on Allawi, pressing him to participate, particularly in the run-up to the presention of the Petraeus report, in order to present a picture to the American people indicating that there has at least been some success in the efforts to alter the political process for the better.
As for the chances of actual rapprochement with Maliki, there isn't hint one way or the other. Allawi is quoted to the effect there is no personal animosity between him and Maliki, just the political issues, and his Iraqi List issued a statement that said the recent events in Karbala show that the Maliki government is incapable of protecting the Iraqi people or their holy sites, and the events show that his government is in a state of collapse.

A tough call

I hope people don't mind too much my having switched to comment-screening. What happened is that after deleting, a few days ago, a round of abuse from someone over the question of who is qualified to speak about or for the Iraqi armed resistance, today someone was upset enough over the "Great stuff" post to write in suggesting I might like to disclose who I really am so that he could ascertain how tough I was in real life. I frankly thought that was a really bad idea, and I deleted his comment. He followed that up with a series of comments including discussions about credibility, self-esteem, honesty, and so on. While I thought his remarks were interesting up to a point, I decided they would probably be of limited interest to readers, so I deleted them too. His final remark recapitulated his views on moral values and included a warning against being judgmental about Matt and Laura! I can't make head or tail of it, but given the times we live in, I thought comment-screening might be the timely thing to do. --Badger

Washington's role in the West Bank

Congress last week approved $80 million of US funds to train and equip five brigades to be under the control of the Abbas administration in the West Bank, pursuant to the Dayton Plan, under the direction of US general Keith Dayton, Haaretz reported yesterday. I don't recall reading in the American media any report of any debate about that congressional action, or any followup discussion for that matter. Which isn't surprising, because the leaked document that first laid out the Dayton Plan in detail, hasn't been a big topic of discussion anywhere in the English language media either.

However, the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar does take note of the development, and puts it in the context of the escalating Fatah-Hamas tensions. The journalist writes:
The question of Palestinian control of the West Bank has become a responsibility of Washington, which is making plans for the establishment of five Palestinian battalions for deployment throughout the West Bank, and this comes at a time when Hamas is accusing the caretaker government headed by Salam Fayyad of coordinating with Israel in the closure of over 100 charitable organizations, targeting thereby the social arm of the movement (Hamas).
It's worth recalling that under "Objectives" in the original Dayton Plan outline, the aims included this: "Delivering a strong political blow to Hamas by supplying the Palestinian people with their immediate economic needs through the Presidency and Fatah..." The move to shut Hamas-affiliated social-assistance groups is a corollary of that, and what the Al-Akhbar reporter is doing with is calling attention to what you could call the coherence of the Dayton Plan: Shifting the balance militarily to the faction friendly to America and the Israeli occupation, while at the same time shifting the balance in terms of "supplying the Palestinian people with their immediate economic needs..." and it is clear that the corollary of that is shutting down social-aid groups that are affiliated with Hamas. The closure orders, based on a June decree by Abbas requiring all organizations to apply to him for re-registration, are discussed in detail here. What is important for Americans to understand is that the closure of Hamas-affiliated voluntary organizations is tantamount to an attack on Palestinian civil society, and that this is part and parcel of the plan that also includes military aid for the Abbas-Fayyad "government".

The military part of which, the Israeli paper Haaretz tells us, was approved by Congress last week. Didn't know that, did you?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Scoring points

David Ignatius wrote in the WaPo this morning something pretty misleading about the run-up to the January 2005 Iraqi election. (This was the election to choose a constituent assembly to write a constitution; it was a later, Dec 05 election, that resulted in the current Parliamentary membership). Ignatius says the CIA, which backed Allawi, said Iran was covertly supporting the Shiite parties, and there was a need to do something about that:
To counter this Iranian tide, the CIA proposed a political action program, initially at roughly $20 million but with no ceiling. The activities would include funding for moderate Iraqi candidates, outreach to Sunni tribal leaders and other efforts to counter Iranian influence. A covert-action finding was prepared in the fall of 2004 and signed by President Bush. As required by law, senior members of Congress, including Pelosi, were briefed.

But less than a week after the finding was signed, CIA officials were told that it had been withdrawn. Agency officials in Baghdad were ordered to meet with Iraqi political figures and get them to return whatever money had been distributed. Mystified by this turn of events, CIA officers were told that Rice had agreed with Pelosi that the United States couldn't on the one hand celebrate Iraqi democracy and on the other try to manipulate it secretly.

Ethically, that was certainly a principled view. But on the ground in Iraq, the start-stop maneuver had the effect of pulling the rug out from under moderate, secular Iraqis who might have contained extremist forces. (Asked about the withdrawal of the intelligence finding, spokesmen for Rice and Pelosi declined to comment.)

It didn't exactly happen that way, if we are to judge by a piece written in July 2005 about this same incident by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. He wrote that by fall 2004 the State Dept was already involved in handing out money to influence the election, but supposedly the President rejected that approach in favor of a more clandestine one. He writes: the same time period [fall 2004], former military and intelligence officials told me, the White House promulgated a highly classified Presidential “finding” authorizing the C.I.A. to provide money and other support covertly to political candidates in certain countries who, in the Administration’s view, were seeking to spread democracy. “The finding was general,” a recently retired high-level C.I.A. official told me. “But there’s no doubt that Baghdad was a stop on the way. The process is under the control of the C.I.A. and the Defense Department.” It is not known why the President would reject one program to intervene in the election and initiate another, more covert one.
In any event, there was a signed Presidential Finding, according to both accounts. And both accounts say Pelosi, briefed on the Finding according to law, objected. But here's where the stories differ sharply. Ignatius says the operation was in fact stopped, CIA agents asked their Iraqi contacts for their money back, and "mystified" CIA officers were told the program had been halted because of objections from Pelosi and Condoleeza Rice. Not so at all, according to Seymour Hersh's account. Hersh wrote:
Sometime after last November’s Presidential election [Nov 2004 US presidential election], I was told by past and present intelligence and military officials, the Bush Administration decided to override Pelosi’s objections and covertly intervene in the Iraqi election. A former national-security official told me that he had learned of the effort from “people who worked the beat”—those involved in the operation. It was necessary, he added, “because they couldn’t afford to have a disaster.”
In other words, the CIA attempt to covertly influence the outcome of that election went ahead (and was unsuccessful in any event). Which makes Ignatius' version of those events look like a crude piece of disinformation designed to make the Democrats in some sense responsible for the current chaos. The point being that yes, Pelosi did object to covertly buying elections, but in point of fact the objection was overruled and the vote-buying went ahead anyway. The Netroots exploded over this, with denunciations by Matt and Atrios, in addition to several lesser individuals, and even the great Markos himself, who says in his judicious way, "this is all horseshit being peddled by Allawi's expensive lobbying firm in DC".

We don't get that too often, the white-hot, extatic rage. But notice what the actual reasoning is. Ignatius has slanderously suggested that the Democrats' principled opposition to vote-buying was in any way effective. It wasn't! The manipulation went ahead as planned. Thus do the Netroots score a point for the Democrats. So it goes.

(I took down an earlier, much more confusing, rendition of this point. Apologies to commenter Dan, whose informative comment also got washed away in that).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sadrist comments on the stand-down order

Nahrainnet, the Sadrist news site, adds the following to its report on Sadr's order to the Mahdi Army to stand down. First, the report quotes sources to the effect this naturally doesn't abrogate the universal and inalienable right of self-defense, in the event the movement is attacked or harassed. And then the journalist adds:
The question is: Will the leadership of the American forces issue orders to avoid harassing the Mahdi Army, or will it find this truce an occasion to increase its attacks on this Army, of which already hundreds of martys have fallen on account of attacks by the American forces, and over 2000 members have been arrested in the last eight months, including men of religion, social activists, and politicians?!
The stand-down statement and explanations by Sadrist sources included references to the need to protect the offices of all sects and parties, clearly an expression of concern about the attacks on SCIRI and Dawa offices in Baghdad (thought to have been in retaliation for what happened in Karbala), and to the need for a space of time to "reorganize the Mahdi army in a way that preserves its ideology". So the surprising stand-down order appears to have been triggered by a realization that control had deteriorated to such an extent that the movement as a whole was at the mercy of events triggered by others. On the other hand, it is important to bear in mind the point cited above, namely self-defence and the question whether the American forces respond by discontinuing their attacks or not, attacks which the writer points out have included arrest of civilian activists and not just fighters. Another point often lost in translation is that that the period referred to isn't "six months", but "a period of time not exceeding six months".

Great stuff

Netroots people have done some digging around and found out that Allawi has been Prime Minister before and not only that but he didn't do a very good job. Matt says the source for this is terrific, and he says Jane has been reading his stuff too. He's Alex J Rossmiller, and according to Matt he knows what he's talking about because he used to work on Iraq intelligence for the US Defence Department. You'll recall what a great job they did.

Matt and Laura have also been digging into this whole question of a coup, and they found out it's not likely to happen anyway, certainly not for Allawi. Their source for that is Nibras Kazimi, who knows what he's talking about because he used to be research director for Ahmed Chalabi, the individual who worked the Defence Dept intelligence apparatus to help tout the war in the first place. Small world. A DIA flunky and a Chalabi flunky from back in the day, doing the spin for us. Thank god we have the credibility of Matt and Laura and the others to rely on this time around.

Hauza authorities denounce the latest political agreement

A commenter two posts back raises the excellent question what the Shiite parties think of the emerging US-Sunni alliance, and whether they see the potential threat. Without trying to answer the whole question, let's start with the Sadrists, where the answer is yes, they certainly do! The Sadrist-oriented news-website posed the question of the meaning of the recent so-called five-party agreement, which included a promise to roll back de-Baathification, to a number of persons it describes as in the milieu of the Hauza (Shiite religious establishment) in Najaf, and the story is headed: "People in the clerical Hauza milieu treat the proposal for the return of Baathists to power with alarm, and describe it as a victory for terror." The persons quoted have the title Hujjat al-Islam, giving them a degree of academic-religious authority in those circles (and also a facility with language, as we shall see). The first one describes his reaction as follows:
This decision is a naked disgrace in the mouth of those who claim to represent the sufferings of this people and to defend its rights. The decision represents capitulation to American and British pressure, and to the desires of regional countries led by Saudi Arabia, and it calls for the return of the security officers and the Mukhabarat to tyrannize this people, and this time with the cover of those who claim to represent the will of the Iraqi people!
Another Hujjat al-Islam puts it this way:
This decision represents a dark day in the history of Iraq, justifying killers and their return to their positions to again exercise terror on the people of Iraq. And this during the continuation of a violent campaign against honest people of Iraq, who are killed and arrested on a daily basis by the forces of the Occupation, within sight and hearing of the government whom the people had charged with their security and representation.
In a nutshell: Their view is that the elected government had already capitulated to the Occupation forces in violent persecution of Iraqis (Shiites), and the five-party agreement represents a blatant confirmation of that policy of capitulation, because it explicitly authorizes bringing back the Baathist Mukhabarat. If they were to comment specifically on the question of US arming of Sunni groups (which is something I haven't seen), probably their view wouldn't be any different: The elected government no longer represents the people, so one corollary could naturally be off-the-books US arming of specific groups, which would naturally be seen as having sectarian purposes.

American commenters generally dismiss the five-party agreement as a meaningless gesture to Bush ahead of the Petraeus report. The Hauza, or at least this group--can we call them Sadr-leaning clerics?--doesn't see it that way. It sees the agreement as a milestone in a process of violent US pressure and domestic political betrayal. (For earlier snapshots of the US strategy in this, see for instance "New Rules of Engagement?" (Jan 11 2007) and "Politics of the Sadr City attack" (Aug 9).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Status of the other "political process"

Marc Lynch summarizes an article appearing on a major Sunni-resistance website (it calls itself Haq Agency in English; the author of this piece is identified as Professor Abdulrahman al-Rawashadi, give or take a vowel) not because it is unique, but to illustrate something of the status of political discussion in those circles. The genre includes these common points: (1) the American defeat means it is high time for the resistance factions to plan for a unified political front to deal with the post-defeat period, and (2) there is a need to start thinking about principles that should govern that process. And the very general principles this writer outlines are similar to those indicated in a couple of earlier summaries of similar writings, for instance: The front itself should be composed of the active and effective armed resistance groups, and not allow itself to be coopted by other groups with other agendas whether foreign or domestic, while at the same time the front should be open to all those who share its objectives, given that its aim is a political program for the benefit of all Iraqis.

But as Abu Aardvark notes, this writer goes a little beyond those generalities. He is also concerned with concrete first steps that should be taken, he thinks, immediately, in the context of the September events in Washington. In fact, his main point and the one he concludes his essay with is this:
We are confident [he writes] that those who have been able to stymie the American project and deliver it this defeat, will also be able, with the help of God most high, to succeed in building a governing structure that will preserve the foundations of the ummah, and will provide justice and equality and the protection of law for all Iraqis; and that for the jihadi resistance which astonished the world with the speed of its initial operations, the time has now come for it to announce its political project including basic steps, and the time has now come for the announcement of who some of its leaders are...and let some people not be confused into thinking that that would represent taking things before their proper time. Rather, it is a question of reaping the harvest of jihad and not letting the victories of the mujahideen go to waste.
In other words, at a time when opportunists will be purporting to speak for the resistance, it is necessary for the core of the resistance to start putting forward genuine spokesmen. The resistance has been successful, and it would be an irremediable error not to plan for the harvest.

The sense of urgency is also apparent in the writer's remarks on the relationship of the resistance to neighboring Arab and Islamic countries. He writes:
[There is a] need for coordination with Arab and Islamic countries so that they can fulfill their obligations in the support of Iraqis generally and this Front in particular as the best representative of the people of Iraq; and this support shouldn't be merely pro-forma or superficial, but should involve first of all permission for the Front to open offices for the performance of its tasks. And [conversely] the Front should realize that these countries have rights as well as duties with respect to Iraq.
Declaration of leaders; opening of offices in neighboring countries. Naturally the failure so far to form a unified political front means there isn't an actual program that only such a front could put together, but obviously there is a growing sense of urgency about starting up what you might call "the political process".

A coherent view of American strategy

Al-Quds al-Arabi publishes an interesting reading of Sunday's Ignatius WaPo piece, not referring to Ignatius by name, but referring to it a Washington Post "report", and highlighting as its main point the following: The emergence of Allawi as the potential successor to Maliki is part and parcel of a "new" or "changed" American policy, the new policy being to make Iraq the place for facing down Iranian influence in the region. While the text of the article talks about this facing-down as "containment", the headline writer for the piece puts it this way (summarizing the Al-Quds reading of the WaPo piece): "Events confirm a change in American strategy [toward] turning Iraq into the locus of war with Iran--WaPo asserts, and Allawi denies, that he received Saudi and Emirati funding in support of his return to power".

And the writer of the Al-Quds piece stresses and highlights another point that was somewhat latent in the WaPo piece. Ignatius wrote:
What modest progress the United States has recently made in Iraq has largely been in Sunni areas, such as Anbar province. It's an alliance of convenience: The Sunnis increasingly see U.S. troops as their best ally for containing the power of Iran and its proxies in Iraq. As the leverage of America's new Sunni friends grows, there has been increasing interest in a coalition to replace the feeble Maliki.
The Al-Quds writer puts much more of a fine point on this, linking American strategy inside Iraq with its support for its regional allies. He writes:
The Washington Post report said the strategy of containing Iran is based on continued support for the Sunni Arab states in confronting it [regionally], and it pointed out that the United States is undertaking a strengthening of its alliance with the Sunnis inside Iraq in order to check growing Iranian influence there [domestically in Iraq].
This is an important point. The writer is taking it for granted that the American strategy of arming Sunni groups in Anbar and elsewhere has, at the very least, an important anti-Iranian dimension. Where Ignatius muddies the waters by talking only of an "alliance of convenience" and the "leverage of America's new Sunni friends", somewhat magically morphing into pressure to replace Maliki, the Al-Quds al-Arabi writer spells it out: The American confront-Iran strategy is based on twin policies of arming Sunni regimes regionally, and arming Sunni groups domestically. And the Allawi phenomenon is one manifestation of the overall strategy.

Kurdistan Region and the WHO dealing with cholera outbreak

Azzaman and Al-Hayat agree on basic coverage of the cholera outbreak in Sulaymania and Kirkuk, citing statements by Kurdistan Region health minister Ziryan Othman in a joint press conference with Naema al-Saghri, a delegate of the World Health Organization, and a local health official in Sulaymania. They reported five deaths in Sulaymania attributed to cholera, apparently since Sunday of last week, and another 2000 cases of the severe diarrhia and vomiting that are major symptoms of the disease, although not all of those are confirmed cases of cholera. Those who have succumbed so far have been mostly older people who couldn't tolerate the loss of body-fluids. There are also six reported cases in Kirkuk and they expressed concern about possible spread of the disease particularly in rural areas in northern Iraq. They said all the cases are being treated as cholera. The WHO delegate spoke about differences of temperature and inadequate hygiene as contributing factors, and stressed that the proper medical procedures are being followed to track down causes and combat the spread of the disease.

Azzaman notes that this is being handled autonomously by the regional government health ministry, given the fact that the central government health ministry is vacant, the prior Sadrist minister not yet having been replaced by Maliki. (Azzaman says the prior Sadrist minister fled to the United States, and his deputy is charged with assisting death squads). And the journalist adds that the volatile security situation in Kirkuk is reflected in the level of health services there.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chalabi !

Laura Rozen posts links to old Eli Lake articles in the New York Sun, along with ruminations by his friend Nibras Kazimi, columnist for the same paper, suggesting that in the event of a battle to the bitter end between Prime Minister Maliki and Ayad Allawi, the untimate beneficiary could be--Ahmad Chalabi! Why Chalabi in particular, and not some other candidate? Citing the history of disputes between Allawi and the De-Baathification commission, Rozen puts it this way:
And a usual player in the dispute is the de-Baathification commission's Chalabi, who can only come out the winner from them finishing each other off, as long as everyone has essentially conceded that traditional electoral democracy was overrated anyway, and is contemplating the public relations challenges and strategies for tolerating a possible junta of national salvation.
In other words, if Allawi represents opposition to de-Baathification and fights to a draw with Maliki, the beneficiary could be the proponent of de-Baathification, and Allawi's rival, Chalabi. That seems to be the logic behind Rozen's suggestion.

In a way, it is helpful to be reminded that there is still a struggle going on over the principle of de-Baathification and how it was carried out. But at the same time, it would also be helpful to have been reminded one of the authorities Laura Rozen cites, namely Kazimi, is a partisan advocate in this, because when he was working for Chalabi, he was also "pro-bono adviser for the Higher Commission for De-Baathification, which he helped establish and staff". (See his bio at the Hudson Institute). And Kazimi continues to advocate for more, not less, De-Baathification, for instance in this April 2007 post about a raid on the house of a Sunni parliamentarian:
The implication of this raid, as well as several others of late, is that the security teams of many of the top Sunni lawmakers seem to have been compromised by insurgent infiltrators, either with or without the connivance of those Sunni politicians, many of whom are facing investigations and are likely to have their parliamentary immunity revoked. Such an accumulation of evidence grinds against any logic behind rolling back de-Ba’athification; if anything we need to de-Ba’athify some more.
It was in the same post that Kazimi called for implementation of "the Israeli method" for pacifying what he called the Sunni-heavy suburbs" of Baghdad, writing as follows:
I propose a ‘closed canton’ method for Baghdad’s Sunni-heavy suburbs of Hai al-Jami’a, ‘Amiriya, Jihad, Ghazaliya, Yarmouk, Dora, Khadra’ and ‘Adhamiya, closing each off unto itself. A similar fix should be extended to the rural Sunni satellite towns (the housing clusters) to the north, west and south of Baghdad: Mushahdeh, Khan Dhari, Mahmoudiya, Yusufiya, and ‘Arab Jbour.

This should be done using the Israeli method: fence them with concrete and technology. The Israelis have been building a separating wall between them and the Palestinians over the past two years. It is an expensive solution but not exceedingly prohibitive. According to Iraqi pricing, a 4 meter high and 1.5 concrete wide ‘T-wall’ barrier costs about 1,200 USD. That evens out to 1 million dollars per kilometer of concrete. Motion sensors, night-vision cameras, sniper observation towers and barbed wire would probably cost an additional 250,000 USD per Km. It is doable.
Kazimi continues to post material he thinks would be embarrassing to the opponent of De-Baathification, Allawi or his allies. (See for instance my December 2003 post called "The 2003 generation seems to be planning a comeback). And Laura Rozen's excavation of the old Eli Lake articles are in the same genre. For instance she says a 2006 article about an alleged coup attempt against Maliki had to do with Allawi and his backers, but actually what the informant said was that "Mr Allawi was not behind the coup attempt".

So here's the picture: At a time when there is a feeling of open season for control of the Green Zone, with complete uncertainty what considered or un-considered thing Bush might decide to do, along comes a suggestion: If you are going to throw in the towel on "democracy" and go for a junta, and Allawi is discredited, then why not also consider the rabid De-Baathification and anti-Sunni advocate Chalabi? It's not a serious possibility, to be sure. But why raise it? The Kazimi/Lake connection is clear enough, but Laura Rozen?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Syrian journalist sees a focus on Syria-Iran-Turkey support for Maliki

Following up on last week's visit by Maliki to Damascus, Syrian journalist Ibrahim Hamidi, writing in Al-Hayat, says his diplomatic and other sources think the meetings showed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and Syrian president Assad to be pretty much on the same page as far as current regional political, security and economic needs are concerned (and this represents an important change from recent indications of Damascus-Baghdad tensions), but at the same time he notes that the Syrian attitude also has to be seen in the context of its overall relationship with Washington.

The thinking goes like this:

For his part, Maliki has shown that he is aware more than ever that he needs the active support of Iran, Syria and Turkey if he is to achieve stability. This includes (he says without elaboration) a conviction that the PKK issue with Turkey has to be resolved. Maliki's new focus on the need for regional cooperation is the result of the escalating pressure from Washington. In fact Hamidi says the embarassing back-and-forth between Bush and Maliki both during the Iran visit and the Damascus visit had the effect of enhancing the impression of Maliki as a non-puppet, capable of forming this kind of regional understanding with Iran, Syria and Turkey. He doesn't actually say the Bush-Maliki exchanges were play-acting, but he does say this helped position Maliki within this additional "room for maneuver".

Assad, for his part, is increasingly worried about the security threat from an Iraq in chaos. In this connection, Hamidi mentions the general fears of a second "return" of the takfiiri mujahideen, the first having been from Afghanistan, threatening Saudi Arabia, and the second being from Iraq, threatening mainly the Levant. And he says the Fatah al-Islam fighting in Lebanon has helped crystalize this fear. Hamidi says the common fear of terrorism resulted in signs, at least, of increased seriousness about cooperation on border security and other security-cooperation issues. And there is the issue not only of the security implications, but also the economic implications of hosting an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, and of the need for cooperation to deal with the economic issues as well. He mentions agreement to re-open the Kirkuk-pipeline, as an example of this.

The other political influence has been Iranian pressure on Syria to be more forthcoming and unconditional in its support for the Maliki government, giving it Arab "legitimacy", their common fear being that a breakdown in the political process would be to the detriment of both of them. This is still based on "hopes" for progress on amending the Iraqi constitution, to diminish the threat of breakup, abolishing the de-Baathification law and other "reconciliation" measures.

A small indication of the change in Syrian attitude, Hamidi says, was apparent in the shift in language used by the Syrian Prime Minister, who initially said a scheduled US withdrawal would be a major help in achieving Iraqi stability, but at the end of the meetings turned this around and said national reconciliation would be a major help in speeding the foreign withdrawal. In fact, Hamidi notes, withdrawal of the foreign troops wasn't specifically mentioned in the final communique.

And this brings us to the double-edged or ambiguous quality that Hamidi sees in the new Syrian approach. He puts it this way:
It is true that there is anxiety [on the part of the Syrian regime] about the security threat coming from Iraq, and that there is a desire to create a regional network [referring to Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria] to prevent the collapse of the Maliki government and of the political process, and the breakup of the country, and [a desire for] cooperation among Syria Turkey and Iran in that respect, and [it is also true that this involves] national economic needs [in each of the countries]. However, it is also true that any security/political success in Iraq, related to this cooperation from the neighbors, will have positive reverberations in Washington on the eve of the Crocker/Petraeus report due the middle of next month, and there is a conviction [I think he means on the part of the Syrian regime] that these positive reverberations will serve to diminish the negative reactions [in Washington] to any negative developments in Lebanon, for instance from any failure to smooth over the main political demands of the two sides, and the possible emergence of the "two-governments" outcome.
In any event, Hamidi concludes, the coming weeks should show whether the new indications of cooperation are the genuine or not.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Syrian writer weighs in on the Kristol-TNR smackdown

Syrian writer Subhi al-Hadidi asks which is the more amusing: The recent highlighting of human rights abuses in Syria coming from the official press in Saudi Arabia; or the expressions of disappointment by US officials including Bush in the performance of their puppet Maliki. Actually, says Hadidi, if you want interesting disputes of this type, what about the recent smackdown between The New Republic and the Weekly Standard over a story about abuses by US soldiers in Iraq. He describes The New Republic as neo-Democrat of the Clinton persuasion, laced with hard Zionism; and the Weekly Standard as the home-base for the neo-con authors of the New American Century. Anyway, he says Kristol accused TNR of stabbing in the back the honor of our boys fighting for freedom in Iraq! (His exclamation point). This launches him on a survey of other intra-neocon disputes, like the Weekly Standard attack on Rumsfeld, an AEI op-ed by Michael Rubin and Danielle Pletka (name now correct), and the Fukuyama recantation, all of which, he says, would seem to be very important signposts in terms of American policy. However, he writes:

These America-America disputes do not really portend any important change in top-level decision-making by the American ummah at the hour of the paroxysm of its rage, when decisions are drenched in the emotional-religious coloration...and when any contrary decision resonates with the echoes of the nightmare [or Vietnam]...So in this climate it isn't surprising if The New Republic and the Weekly Standard speak with the same voice, so that each and every one of these "differences" is like distinguishing between the black cows in the black night.
He quotes Senator Fulbright four decades ago on the two Americas, one liberal and reasonable, and the other emotional and reliant on brute force, adding:
But if a person tries to understand the Kristol-TNR differences--in spite of their agreement on things like absolute support for Israel, destruction of Lebanon, and encirclement and starvation of the Palestinians--differences about whether to publish facts about the loathsome agression in Iraq or to keep silent about them, or if a person tries to follow the differences between Maliki and the US forces that are occupying his country, with slogans like "disappointment" and so on--in spite of the fact that Maliki will submit, at the end of the day, to each and every decision of the US forces--if a person tries to follow all of that, surely a person should be able to conjure up the fact that here is a single, unified America behind all these pseudo-divisions, and it should be possible to distinguish between the tragedy of the occupation itself, and the comedy of the arguments between the puppets. ...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A question (and a link)

In the opinions section of Al-Masryoun this morning, a Dr Ahmad Darraj describes the Egyptian regime as having unceasingly and in every possible way, politically, culturally, and in workplaces across the country, worked to alienate the population and create a level of popular hatred against the regime, which the more it is stopped up with additional repression, the more latent power it accumulates for its eventual explosion. He says you have to ask yourself what a government is going to be able to do once it has so completely cut itself off from its people, "killing them instead of protecting them, and starving them instead of nurturing them..." He continues:
And the bigger and more pressing question is when will we see the exit of this government of starvation and of thirst, ignorance, blindness and police coercion. What is keeping alive this government whose people boycotts it and raises its banners of opposition to it in every location an of every type and every color?!! And is it possible for a ruling regime to continue, based on the support of enemies and their supporters in the White House and the Knesset, to stand up against its own people with security forces and weapons and torture!!!
The heading for this article is: "From psychological resistance to civil disobedience," his point being that the invisible discontent is about to come out into the open. We in the anglosphere don't get to hear that much about the issue of Egyptian civil discontent, one way or the other., and I post this tiny excerpt only to try and give a small indication of the enormous issues connected with US-supported regimes like that of Egypt. At the very least, if there is to be a critical debate about the Muslim Brotherhood political program, shouldn't that be balanced with an equally strong and well-informed debate about the American bi-partisan program that supports* regimes like this one?

* in a very special sense. For the political context vis-a-vis America, Steve notes I could have linked to this earlier post, called "What America wanted Mubarak to do (but they found him useless)", summarizing an Atwan classic about the senility of a puppet regime.

"Bush at a dead end": Atwan

Abdulbari Atwan argues that Bush's flip-flop on Maliki shows Bush doesn't have any alternatives left for continuing the Iraq-occupation project. He concludes by saying that the flip-flop on Maliki will embolden Maliki's his enemies inside and outside of the "political process" and hasten his downfall. He argues as follows:
President Bush's confusion, between withdrawing his confidence from the Maliki government, then renewing it, all in the space of a two-day period, is tantamount to the coup de grace for the man and for the government, because this will push the groups that are in opposition to him, like the Sunni bloc, the Sadrist group and the Fadhila party, to toughen their attitude and augment the level of their demands. Likewise this will give the resistance factions the feeling that their victory is imminent, and that is in fact the case. No doubt President Bush will play for additional time, and wait for the report from General Petraeus expected the middle of next month, which certainly will indicate the failure of the American project for the occupation of Iraq, confirming the defeat of President Bush and his administration.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Arab Resistance and the American political system

An establishment Arab researcher from the Gulf warns that religious extremism mixed with an ideology of racial and religious hatred and violence continues to threaten the region, referring to the Republican party in the United States and its hard-right core. The corollary of the continued influence of this group is the need to continue to support the armed resistance in Iraq, south Lebanon and Palestine.

Ali Mohamed Fakhro, who I believe is head of the Bahrein Center for Studies and Research, writes in Al-Quds al-Arabi this morning that even though there are obvious signs that the Iraq and Afghanistan defeats have set in motion a decline in the American extreme right, it has to be remembered that the movement will still have its enormous base of power in the American political system, in media, and in the economy.

Politically, it still retains its control over the Republican party.

And it will continue to have access to its media networks including five thousand radio stations and a hundred TV stations that broadcast each week the messages of their main evangelists, along with politics centered on an ideology of violence and hatred of Islam and Muslims, under the cloak of the war on terror, and under the pretext of the need to support Israel, without whose control of Jerusalem, it would be impossible for the day to come for the return of the Messiah to earth and the salvation of the world. We should remember, Fakhro writes, what Pascal said about the worst crimes being those committed in the name of religion, because it will help us grasp the danger that awaits us Muslims and Arabs from the continued control by this group of the religious, media and political centers [in America].

And economically this group shares in the ideology of universal markets and the power of the multinational corporations. The war in Iraq, the fighting in Somalia and the massive foreign presence in the Gulf are merely the first signs of what awaits us on that score.
And although it is true that this group includes various components from moderate to extremist, the fact is that a large part of it is extremely dangerous, because it believes in violence and in preemptive intervention, and in punishing those who fail to follow the American path. Moreover, the most serious part is that their extremists have gone so far as to legalize the killing of unbelievers including Iraqi resistance people and Palestinian terrorists (and we know that the designation terrorist hasn't been conferred on America yet), and this should help us grasp the danger of this ideology of religion and violence.
The writer says his point is to admonish those Arabs who shamelessly criticize the establishment of a resistance in Iraq, in South Lebanon, and in Palestine, "preferring the idea of participating in what goes on in London and Washington". He says the blood of those who died in those fields of resistance will not have been in vain.
History will record that the enormous global project [of America] experienced its first signs of fracture in these three lands, and it would be a horrible intellectual and political mistake not to understand our history in this light.
But that doesn't mean that once Bush is gone the struggle won't continue, and with it the need to support the resistance and and the defence of every inch of our land.

He doesn't mention the Democratic Party or liberals or any of that ilk, or dialogue or what have you, and I guess it shouldn't be too hard to see why. Since no one in the American system recognizes the legitimacy of armed resistance to armed foreign occupation, from his point of view there wouldn't be a heck of a lot of room for dialogue.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Political correctness

By way of background to the assassination of the governor of Muthanna province, Al-Hayat on Tuesday printed an overview of Shiite power relations in the south of Iraq, the key paragraph being this one:
Everyone today admits the existence of a big Iranian influence in the south of Iraq, and that the intelligence centers control indirectly the keys to events via politicians connected to various different centers of power in Tehran. And it is very likely that Iranian influence extends to all of the parties that are involved in the conflict, and some of the people in the south say all of them are connected to influential Iranian agencies, like the "Al-Quds Brigade", the "intelligence agency," the "army", the "political authority" which actuate all of the parties as appropriate.
Which the headline for the story summed up this way: "Iran rules in the Iraqi south: The streets belong to Sadr and the local governments to Hakim". In other words, the struggles in the South are between entities all of which, in one way or another, are controlled by Tehran. That may or may not be true, but it is important to understand the point of view.

Iraqslogger printed a fairly thorough summary of the Al-Hayat piece, with a remark by their writer complimenting the Al-Hayat writer on a good piece, but giving the heading as "The street for the Sadrists and the local governments for Hakeem," leaving out the "Iran rules..." part, and leaving out any reference to the paragraph quoted above. In other words, shying away from Iran-rules angle, presumably out of a concern for political correctness.

Of course not everyone agrees that the Iranian influence in the South is that pervasive. Take Juan Cole, for instance. Today he wrote:
Since some observers don't get this right, I just want to underline that these assassinations have been strikes against Iranian influence in Iraq, by nativists probably at least loosely connected to the Sadr Movement.
That's possible too, although as usual you have to accept his boldface in lieu of evidence.

But the Reuters story Juan cites includes this:
Hadi al-Ameri, an Iraqi parliamentarian and head of the Badr Organisation, which he insists has renounced violence, blamed remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime for the killing. "The purpose behind these assassinations is to create Shi'ite-Shi'ite strife," Ameri told Reuters.

There isn't any evidence who was behind the latest assassination. What I find interesting is that the big anglosphere blogs (and naturally the corporate media too) shy away from acknowledging the Sunni point of view, which is that Iranian influence is already pervasive in the South, and from acknowledging the possibility, given that view of things, that Sunni resistance fighters or others could be doing this as part of resistance to what they consider to be Iranian occupation.

How the big blogs mislead you

It is usually when events clearly echo something people recognize, such as the hints of an American-sponsored coup (against Maliki this time), or the Iran-weapons-killing-our-boys charges, that commenters rise up to say "no more American-sponsored coups", or "here we go again with the unsubstantiated weapons charges in preparation for a war". Those are the things that are easily recognized, so you will find that they percolate up to the high-traffic blogs. It is a pattern that leads to facile understanding, namely that there are evil coup-plotters and war-mongering propagandists in Baghdad and Washington. Very true as far as it goes.

The problem is that short-cutting to this kind of evil-agent explanation not only passes over the underlying dynamics, but it also creates an atmosphere of political correctness that deters honest discussion.

One example: Sunni resistance literature of all types is full of references to the need for fighting the "double occupation" of Iraq, by the United States on the one hand and Iran on the other. So when the American military arms and assists Sunni groups, whether tribal- or resistance-factional based, for the purpose of fighting AlQaeda, they are at the same time helping to foster a mood of empowerment among these Sunni groups. While the Americans may think they can manage the question of their loyalty or otherwise to the American forces, what about the Iranians? If you belong to a movement that is fighting two occupiers, and one of those occupiers arms and assists you, it seems logical that you would use some of that windfall to step up the fight against the other occupier. The result: Heightened Iraq-Iran conflict, and a big step forward on the road to Iraq-Iran war or at the very least Iraq civil war.

While the "coup bad" and "war-mongering bad" ideas make their way up to the high-traffic blogs, the problem is that there are key factors that don't percolate up in the information food-chain. One is this point that the Sunni resistance is fighting two occupations, American and Iranian. This is actually a politically incorrect thing to say, because if Cheney heard you say it, he might use it to juice up his Iran-war campaign. So the result is that the arming of Sunni groups is represented as a case of American mucking about in an unfocused manner in an ongoing and futile attempt to have some kind of pragmatic domestic balance of violence.

On the contrary. Only when you overcome the fear of political incorrectness and realize that the Sunni armed groups are also fighting an Iranian occupation as well as an American one, will you be in a position to understand the connection between what the American military is doing now in Iraq and the coming confrontation with Iran.

Here is another example. American attacks on Sadrist strongholds have given Iraqis the clearest possible proof that Maliki is incapable of protecting his political allies, and one result has been a definitive split between Sadr and Maliki, contributing to the Maliki-crisis. This was the result of American military policy, directed against a movement whose main declared enemy is the American occupation. That's one factor in the Maliki-crisis. Another is the disaffection of the Sunni political parties that have been participating in the "political process", who have recently been witnessing the US go outside the "political process" in arming other, potentially rival, Sunni groups. Recall the bizarre visit of Maliki recently to Tikrit, of all places, to try and solicit tribal leaders to fill in for the IAF. So the Maliki-crisis is the result, in important ways, of American military policy: targeting Sadr, and arming non-government Sunni groups. So to focus on "opposing another American-supported coup" is to really to lose sight of the whole issue, which is American military policy leading up to this.

Here again political incorrectness plays its role, in a peculiar form. The blog-correctness is that American policy in Iraq is a shambles, without rime or reason, incoherent, a "failure", with no legitimate party to support, and this is the strongest justification for "withdrawal". But this is the narrowest form of political correctness imaginable because it puts any substantive criticism beyond the pale. Substantive criticism of the attacks on Sadr would be met with Sadr-bashing. And it seems the need to fight AlQaeda in any possible way serves as a bulwark against criticism of the arming of non-government Sunni groups. So "Sadr bad" and "AlQaeda bad" serve as building blocks for a position that says: Fighting the bad guys in Iraq is fine in isolation, but in context it is incoherent, because there is no party to support: So withdraw. Just as evil agents in Washington plot coups and spread propaganda; evil agents in Iraq kill indiscriminately. The heck with both of them: Withdraw.

This idea that US policy in Iraq is "incoherent" depends on suppressing important Iraq-domestic factors, for instance: (1) that the Sunni resistance is resistance to two occupations, one of them Iranian, so arming them is promoting confrontation with Iran. (2) that driving Sadr out of the Maliki government was a polarizing policy, hence aimed in the same direction. But underlying all of this is the bedrock of misunderstanding, namely the suppression of the fact there is such a thing as a right to resist foreign armed occupation, and that there is such a resistance in Iraq. I have yet to see where American progressives recognize that right, and certainly the failure to recognize the aims and aspirations of its proponents is a recipe for all kinds of spinoff misunderstandings. The most important of which, at the moment, is the failure to see how American policy in Iraq, far from being incoherent, is on a straight road to confrontation with Iran.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Sunni curtain-raiser on the Maliki-Assad meetings

Iraqi newspaper Azzaman, no doubt reflecting views current in the Iraqi Sunni establishment, offers a curtain-raiser on the Maliki visit to Damascus that essentially accuses Maliki of being prepared to trade oil for help in tracking down opponents of his "political process". Here is the way the Azzaman reporter puts it:
Meanwhile observers described Maliki's visit to Damascus as an attempt to obtain Arab support via Damascus, and to assure the Syrians of the possibility of ending the whole range of accusations relating to infiltrations into Iraq from Syria, in exchange for Damascus' helping the Iraqi government in secure Arab support, at a time when the gap between the Baghdad government and the Arab countries appears very wide...

And informed Syrian sources in London told Azzaman that the Syrian authorities reject a request from the Iraqi government to turn over to it lists of politicians and military people who oppose the political process and who have been living in Damascus for the last four years. The lists include the names of close to a hundred high-ranking officers in the former Iraqi army. Damascus fears that the [Iraqi] militias will undertake to detain and kill them, or else turn them over to Iranian agencies on charges that they participated in the Iran-Iraq war beween 1980 and 1988, [a request] the sources said goes against the Syrian policy of national openness...

Iraqi government sources, for their part, said Maliki will propose extending an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria to strengthen economic cooperation and close the gap between the two capitals. But according to Syrian sources, Damascus has rejected, earlier this year, suggestions from the Maliki government on the idea of an tradeoff between oil-related assistance and the political file [relating to] the Iraqis in Syria.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Report warns against the effects of an Israel military plan to close the Negev border with Egypt

The Egyptian opposition paper Al-Masryoun summarizes a report from Ben Gurion University about an Israeli plan to completely close off the border between Egypt and Israel's Negev Desert southern region, the gist of the report being to warn of the devastating effects such a closure would have on the Arab Bedouins that live in the Negev. The reporter Mohammed Atiya writes:
A report from Ben Gurion University discloses that the Israeli military establishment is at work on a plan aiming at the complete closure of the border with Egypt for a period of five years, something that would lead to great damage to the Arab residents of the region in their source of income, because Bank of Israel statistics indicate the Arabs of the Negev make 40 million shekels annually from dealing in contraband goods from Egypt via the Sinai. According to the report, after the complete closure of the border, they will have no alternative but to invade central Israel and Tel Aviv in particular, or else Cairo where this will lead to spread of robbery and plunder at the hands of these Bedouin tribes against the residents of the two capitals. The report also warned against an imminent explosion in the region because of what the Arab Bedouins have faced in recent years by way of a fierce campaign waged against them by Israel, centering on their desire to seize their lands for Jewish settlements and for private farms for Jews only, and including non-connection of any villages to the water and electricity networks, and non-provision of the most basic health services, and [another factor is] the rise in the rate of unemployment among youths of the region.
The Ben Gurion University report reviewed similar efforts in the past by Israel to undermine the social and economic basis of the Negev Bedouins, including border-closings and a land-grab that followed the Camp David accord in 1982.

The Masryoun journalist doesn't provide any background information relating either to this report or to the border-closure plan. There have been recent news reports on border issues relating to the Gaza crisis, including a reported Egyptian plan to re-militarize the Sinai, but it is an issue that seems to have disappeared from the news recently. And this journalist doesn't attempt to pick up the pieces.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The potential meaning of the Syria-Saudi deterioration

Syrian vice-president Farouq al-Sharaa made a speech last week in which he described as "paralyzed" Saudi Arabia's Arab and Islamic role in the region, and a Saudi spokesman replied by accusing the Assad regime of fostering instability by saying things like that. (Summary of the initial exchange in English here). Al-Quds al-Arabi says this morning that a counterattack by the leader of the committee on Arab affairs in the Syrian parliament indicates the deterioration in the relationship has now gotten to a point where it can't easily be patched up. (The Syrian parliamentarian described Syria as the reference-point for Arab nationalism in the whole region, something intolerable to Saudi self-esteem). And the Lebanese paper al-Akhbar notes that Egypt has joined in on the side of Saudi Arabia, launching its own package of criticisms and insults directed at the Assad regime (for instance, saying Bashar al-Assad has wasted the political heritage of his father).

The Syria-Saudi relationship is not only going to be an important factor in Lebanon. The relationship of Syria with the US, (reflected in this relationship with Saudi and the "axis of moderates") could also affect the stability of the Maliki regime versus the resistance in Iraq. Those seeing Assad as cooperative with Maliki cite participation in meetings that helped legitimate the Maliki administration, and reports that Syria scuttled the recent "Damascus Conference" of resistance factions. There is an interesting collection of different views in the comment section of a recent post at called "Sharaa statement of Syria's foreign policy".

In any event, this apparent collapse in the Syria-Saudi relationship will be an important part of the background when Maliki meets with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in a meeting scheduled for Monday.

But there are a couple of readings of the current Syria-Saudi war of words that haven't been much commented on: (1) The view of expressed by Abdulbari Atwan in his op-ed of Thursday, in which he linked the initial Sharaa speech with the warning that had just been made by Hizbullah chief Nasrullah, to the effect that Hizbullah had "surprises" in store in the event Israel were to launch a war. Atwan suggested the Syrian regime was warning that it was now at the end of its patience with a policy of attempted conciliation with the US and its regional allies, and that it too would have surprises in store. While the Assad regime, with its cold-war-era media techniques would be no match for the US-allied group in a war of words, Atwan said, the Syrian Mukhabarat, by contrast, was very well qualified in the area of direct destabilizing action against its neighbors. (2) In the lead editorial today, Al-Quds al-Arabi calls attention to the the escalating nature of what is so far still a war of words, this time from the Saudi side. The editorialist writes:
The real source of concern lies in the possibility that this war of words could develop into a bloody confrontations in areas of competition and struggle, for instance in Lebanon, but also in Syria and Saudi Arabia themselves, particularly since now the two sides in Lebanon have joined in a round of mutual insults and accusations.
The editorialist refers in particular to TV interview remarks by the editor in chief of the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, and a former adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal, in which this member of the Saudi media and policy elite
...intimated that perhaps the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not permit the continuation of the current vacuum in the Syrian government, and he espoused the hypothesis of replacing the current regime, and supporting the forces of [Syrian] opposition.
This Al-Watan editor isn't a current office-holder, but the Al-Quds editorialist says he is enough of a figure in the policy establishment to make a remark of this type a cause for real concern.

If the hypothesis of a dangerous hardening between Syria and the US-clients in the region proves out, then this could have implications in the question of Syria's stance vis-a-vis the Iraqi resistance.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The other market crisis

The press-photos made yesterday's Baghdad political announcement it look like an auction of antique furniture at Christies.

Probably we could say there was an auction of sorts going on, but for something a lot more valuable than any antique furniture, if we recall the passage in the famous Hadley Memo of last fall that launched the whole "realignment" and exclude-the-Sadrists push:
Consider monetary support to moderate groups that have been seeking to break with larger, more sectarian parties, as well as support Maliki himself as he declares himself the leader of the bloc and risks his position within Dawa and the Sadrists.
(Or in the words of Marc Lynch referring recently in his thumbnail tags to a report about putting the Anbar Salvation Front in the cabinet to replace the Sunni coalition: "Round and round it goes, at least until there are enough zeros").

The bizarre idea of announcing that a narrower sectarian "coalition" is a way of reviving the reconciliation process is a sure sign of the end of the US-sponsored "political process", says Al-Quds al-Arabi in its lead editorial this morning. But like all essentially financial issues, this is a little like the stock market: you can be right about the direction, but the real problem is how to predict timing. There is a remark attributed to Talabani in the Al-Quds al-Arabi news account of what happened yesterday that suggests the music might not stop right away. Talabani is quoted as saying:
With respect to the lack of participation in the front by the Islamic Party, President Talabani said: "We proposed participation to them, and Dr Tareq al-Hashemi, general secretary of the Islamic Party of Iraq hopes for the success of the Front, but he sees the time as not appropriate for the participation in it of his party. "

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reading list

Here is a chronological list, with links, of the some of the interviews with Kubaysi and Baath party people, from 2002 to date, referred to in recent posts and comments. All links fully guaranteed. Readers of the comments will note there are a number of apparent disagreements about things like the Baath role, and the history and meaning of the IPA-Baath relationship. For my part I'm more interested in what the spokespeople have to say about other aspects of the resistance, including the nationalist/Islamic relationship. Anyway here is the initial reading list.

(1) December 2002 interview with Jabbar al-Kubaysi, in which he talks about Iraqi Patriotic Alliance, which included an anti-Saddam wing of the Baath party and various left-nationalist groups. The group had a meeting in 2002 in Baghdad with senior Saddam people, to talk about not only the need for political opening, but also the need to prepare resistance on the assumption of an American invasion. The link is here.

(2) February 2004 interview with Kubaysi by a US group called the St Louis InsteadOfWar Coalition. Asked about the recent capture of Saddam, Kubaysi said this was having the effect of making the various Baath groups more flexible, and also of increasing the degree of cooperation by the Islamist groups. He describes the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance as the core of the resistance. The link is here.

(3) Interview posted in English by the Baath-related site with former Baath functionary and Saddam confidante Salah al-Mukhtar. He says by 2002 Baath party leadership had completed preparations for a long war of resistance including weapons-storage, training and so on. "After the occupation of Iraq thousands of people have joined the armed resistance: some of them joined Baath party organizations, some others formulated their own organizations. For the time being, we have many different groups fighting against American colonial occupation, and these organizations have different ideological characters, including progressive forces, religious groups, nationalists, but the main organization is the Baathist one. As for the connection among these organizations, I can say that there is a strong coordination and cooperation". The link is here.

(4) October 11 2004 interview in the Jordanian newspaper al-Majd with an unnamed Baath party leader (translated into English by al-Moharer and posted on a French website). He says the leadership and main components of the resistance are Baath, but also that this is complemented by a broad front of others people and groups "who entered the Resistance battlefield through the gateway of the Baath". Here is the link.

(5) October 31 2004 interview with the same paper by a Baath field commander called Abu Mu'atassim, translated by the same people and posted on the same site as the preceding item. He talks about a unified military command by Baath people, coordinating "all the Resistance factions and their Mujahideen in the area, be they Baathist, Islamist, or other honorable patriots...", and he claims there is political unification as well via the Baath party. The link.

(6) December 2005 interview of al-Mukhtar [not Kubaysi, as I originally wrote] by Robert Dreyfuss. Al-Mukhtar here repeats his] assertions about pre-invasion resistance planning by the Baath. It is clear that his main point is that the Americans need to talk, not to minor players, but "to negotiate with the Baath party and the resistance leadership, and not to any other party (this was just after the 2005 Iraqi-parliamentary elections, and there were reports of Khalilzad-Allawi attempts to talk to some resistance groups during this period). The link.

(7) July 2007 interview with Kubaysi published by InformationClearinghouse. Kubaysi says the original proliferation of resistance groups has now reorganized into eight main groups, with a high degree of operational coordination on a local basis, but he concedes that "what has so far not been achieved is a unified political command, which remains one of the main tasks ahead." He says: "The entire environment is Islamic. By Marxist or nationalist calls you will not attract young people..." (And this brings us chronologically up to the recent news about the creation of a Political Office for the resistance, and the aborted Damascus Conference). Here is the link.

ADDED NOTE: A commenter notes there is also a vast amount of material relating to Kubaysi and the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance on the website, major items appearing in German Italian and Spanish in addition to English, also extending from 2002 to date. You can access these by going to the website and typing Kubaysi in their search-box. For instance there is an interesting Dec 18 2003 interview with Kubaysi which includes comments on the ambiguous and uncertain position of Moqtada al-Sadr, indicating talks between him and the IPA were still going on, and including this exchange:

AC: What about the group of Muqtada al Sader? Did he capitulate?

JK: No, capitulation is too strong. The tremendous Iranian pressure makes him hesitate. I do not only speak about the political pressure exerted by Tehran but also about the direct presence of thousands and thousands Iranian agents mainly in the East and the South of the country. We had two meetings with Muqtada and he claimed that he will resist the occupation peacefully. That means that he opposes the military resistance. But nobody can believe that the US can be convinced without armed self-defense. What does legal means mean in a situation of illegal occupation? Our armed resistance is entirely legal according to international law and the UN charter, and also to Islamic law and our national values. We will never accept orders to disarm ourselves and to limit us to toothless peaceful action as Muqtada claims. However, we will go on trying to convince him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Meeting Resistance": Badger gives it the thumbs up, and you should too

Meeting Resistance is a film about the Iraqi national resistance produced by Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, and in it you'll find enlightenment from both ordinary Iraqis and activist Iraqis about the nature of the resistance, the environment and motives of the people and so on, from 2003 onward. (And naturally among many other things it brings into focus issues about the Baath and so on, raised in the recent posts and discussion here). You can see short clips from the film with some of the people, talking about their motivation and so on, at the website Distribution of the film is still a work in progress, and you can follow the scheduling via their website to see if it comes to a place accesible to you (currently LA and Hartford Conn) and subscribe to a newsletter that will keep you up to date. (There is also a trailer that Iraqslogger posted). I've only seen the clips and the trailer, but clearly the film is dyamite, and especially in the American context, where you don't get to see this side of the story at all, face to face in this way.

Molly and Steve thought readers here would be interested, and they're right! In a comment on an earlier post, they also note what their research in Adhamiya told them about spontaneous organization of resistance right after the invasion, even in the face of the Baath party itself being held in generally bad repute. I was going to lift a couple of paragraphs from their comment and put them here, but I can't figure out how to do that from a comment. It's the fourth comment down on the posting "An example of Baath-jihadi interaction"; suffice it to say as far as Baath-stronghold Adhamiya is concerned the Baath party's reputation among the residents was bad, and the party "had a lot of catching up to do," as they put it.

But the point is: Let's help promote the film. Missing Links readers are all influential people, think how you can help. It's needed, and besides that, it's interesting !

"Sunni Arab guerillas" and the "Global Americana Institute"

Juan Cole this morning reported the following:

"Sunni Arab guerillas are targeting civilian airlines in the US".

But what he linked to is a New York Times story that reported allegations of rocket fire of unknown origin against a Nordic Airways plane on takeoff from Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan. No Sunni Arab guerillas, no US.

Several hours later, after misinformation-alerts had been posted by me and by another blogger whose post was picked up by, the item was just deleted without explanation. But "Sunni Arab guerillas targeting civilian airlines in the US" isn't something you can assume he posted absentmindedly. More than a little creepy, this kind of thing from the President of the suggestively-named "Global Americana Institute".

Here's his original posting, from my harddrive, where I copied it for safekeeping.

Informed Comment

Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Four US Troops Killed
PKK Threatens Iraq, Turkey

Four more US troops have been announced killed in Iraq.

Sunni Arab guerrillas are targeting civilian airlines in the US.

In the wake of PM Nuri al-Maliki's talks with Turkey and his commitment to expel the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK) from Iraq, the PKK has threatened both Turkey and Iraq with terroist acts if they follow through on any crackdown:

' “The Iraqi government should not interfere in the conflict between us and Turkey”, spokesman Abdelrahman Chadarchi told AFP by telephone from the Qandil mountains on the Iraq-Iran border. “If they plan to strike at the PKK politically or militarily, Iraq and Turkey will pay the price and the crises in Iraq and Turkey will deepen”, he added without elaborating.'

Amid mortar attacks and assassinations, Baghdad police found 17 bodies in the streets of the capital on Monday.

Persistent power shortages are making life miserable in the Baghdad heat.

Mitt Romney's gaffe on his sons' (lack of) service in Iraq is not getting any media attention beause of an MSM double standard whereby if a Democrat puts his foot in his mouth, it is the end of the world, but Republicans can say the craziest things and they don't get media coverage.


Karl Rove Resignation: Satire

Satire on Karl Rove's resignation: Rewriting a Wikipedia article through search and replace. (Link in time stamp, below.)

Next month's news today ? (Now you see it, now you don't)

Here's this morning's heading and the top two items from the most widely-read Iraq-news blog in America. Notice the second item: "Sunni Arab guerillas are targeting civilian airlines in the US." The link is to a New York Times story that said two pilots of a Swedish airliner say they were fired on while taking off from the airport at Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq. There wasn't any report on who was responsible for the attack, and there certainly wasn't any reference to the US.

Maybe this was just a slip-up. Or is it possible the blog-author picked up a memo from the wrong pile?

Informed Comment

Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Four US Troops Killed
PKK Threatens Iraq, Turkey

Four more US troops have been announced killed in Iraq.

Sunni Arab guerrillas are targeting civilian airlines in the US.

UPDATE: Juan has deleted the item "Sunni Arab guerillas target civilian airlines in the US" from his Aug 14 posting, without explanation. Was it really there? Gabriele at The Cat's Blog can back me up on this. She too posted an item on this. Her idea was maybe Juan was thinking of Iraqi Kurdistan as US territory... (which however wouldn't explain why he attributed this to "Sunni Arab guerillas"...)

Monday, August 13, 2007

An example of Baath-jihadi interaction

While thinking about this question of communication and coordination between the secular and the islamist parts of the resistance, I came upon the following. It is a statement by someone called Faisal al-Janidi, posted on the website, dated August 11, 2007, and headed "Comments on a statement by the jihadi factions of Aadhamiya". It is pretty much self-explanatory, a small illustration of an open relationship between the Baath-related and the jihadi sides of the resistance, of the kind intimated by al-Kubaysi (in the ICH interview just posted), and which seems to be an important blindspot for the anglo-understanding. Here it is. (The three dots toward the end are where I skipped over a short illustration from Islamic history. I didn't get it. Forgive me).
A group of jihadi factions in Adhamiya issued a statement a few days ago criticizing the so-called Adhamiya Awakening and warning its members of severe sanctions. We agree with the factions in exposing this group and punishing it, as long as it is clear they are cooperating with the occupation, carrying out [the occupation's] plans, and interfering with the role of the jihadi factions. However, we don't agree with the part of this and other statements where they refer to "suspicious and opportunistic" individuals who had positions, large or small, in the national state before the occupation saying or suggesting that they are the models (meaning representative microcosms) of the national system, as if the Iraqi state in the capacity of each of its employees should be composed of angels. Some of the statements in question went so far as to several members of the Mahdi Army are former security officers, and one of them even said the criminal Abu Daraa used to be a security officer with the rank of Major, which wasn't true but even if we grant that, what is strange or unreasonable about the idea that there were deviations by a group within the hundreds of thousands of [state] employees and officers. And what is their relative position among the thousands of officers and of the rank and file who form the backbone of all of the resistance factions without exception. ... And so I ask our brothers in the factions to be scrupulous and to show their cultural ability (qudrat al-thaqaafii) not to do harm to what is the main component of the resistance, the Baath with its factions and its broad popular leadership, which is the nursery of all of the resistance factions under whatever name. And [we ask you to be scrupulous] so as not to perform a free service for the occupation and its agents, and to keep your turn your guns and your pen turned against those who have declared open season on this country of ours. Because it is unity in our ranks and in our speech that will put the nails in the coffin of the occupation.

Understanding the resistance, Part II: The mixing of symbols

Information Clearing House published on Friday the English version of a lengthy interview with Abduljabbar al Kubaysi, dated July 10 2007 or just in the run-up to the ultimately aborted Damascus Conference. The following brief excerpts and comments are only meant to encourage people to read the whole thing. Kubaysi says the US is behind a lot of the killing of civilians, as part of their efforts to foster a sectarian-based civil war; that the initial US aim was to install by military power an easily-manipulable Shiite government, but that the unexpected growth of the resistance caused them to design the "political process" as a way of getting Sunni groups involved, so as to drain the pool in which the Sunni resistance was able to thrive; but now that the Sunnis have become completely disaffected with the government, that strategy too has ended in failure.

Regionally, he says the original American plan was to blame Syria for letting AlQaeda into Iraq, and use that as the pretext for toppling Assad and setting up a Muslim Brotherhood government in Damascus, which would fight in support of the Iraqi Sunnis, with Iran on the other side supporting the Shiites, hoping in this way to trigger a regional war that would last decades. But the Iraqi resistance prevented that by denying them the first step, namely initial control of Iraq.

Kubaysi also made remarks of another type. This is a man who grew up and flourished in the culture of left-nationalism, now having to deal with a rising generation to whom those ideas and ideologies are largely a thing of the past, who are motivated rather by Islam. When he was asked "...what is the relation of the resistance to the salafi and takfiiri groups," his reply included this:
Regarding alQaeda, in the first two years they were a very limited force....Later they steadily gained ground and they still keep growing. They have a lot of money but they do not spend it on luxury life but live very decent life on minimum needs dedicating everything to the struggle, which shows a very serious and attracting behavior. They spend the money on the struggle. Most of the youths join them not for the ideology but because they offer a place to resist.
So first of all he honors these people for their seriousness and dedication to the cause of resistance. This is worth noting because where others would challenge the "ideology", Kubaysi says the ideology is secondary if that, and the point is the dedication to the practical cause. He goes on:
They have a lot of resources and a steady supply also from outside while the other groups get nearly nothing from outside. Today maybe we can say that al Qaeda is the first organisation of the resistance. They go separately from the others but nevertheless in each city there is a kind of council to co-ordinate military action, to chalk out a plan of defence.

Islam is a weapon to make the people rise up. The Islamic history, the Islamic figures, the Islamic culture is used to push the people to fight because they consider Islam as their identity. National and religious symbols are being mixed. The Koran says that if Islamic land is attacked by foreigners, armed resistance is obligatory. This is until today out of question in the common sense. Jihad becomes a Muslim duty for the people being occupied by foreign invaders like fasting and praying.

So all the resistance groups whether Islamic or not use this spirit as a tool to mobilise and raise the people. Take for example the statements of the Baath party and of Izzat al Durri personally. Judging by his language you would believe him to be an extreme Islamist. But this does not mean that all of them are really Islamists.

The entire environment is Islamic. By Marxist or nationalist calls you will not attract young people. Where ever young people go you will find Islamic sentiment and spirit dominating. This indirectly favours al Qaeda. People who join them do not feel to do something not normal as the general conditions are Islamic. On the contrary they will believe to only act consistently.
If people in the American orbit read this at all, no doubt their readings of it will differ, but to me the first and most important point for any analysis of the resistance is that you cannot pidgeonhole people and groups as if you were Linnaeus studying his butterflies or what have you. "National and religious symbols are being mixed..." We can assume Kubaysi knows something about the mixing of symbols, because in earlier years he was involved in working together with anti-Saddam nationalist Baathists, Communists, Kurdish nationalists, unaffiliated people, and so on. People of many ideologies faced with a common crisis. While the wisdom of the anglosphere has been to play up and highlight each and every prospect for internal strife, sunni/shiite and islamist/nationalist in particular, there is also an underlying dynamic that goes in the opposite direction, and it is the ability to overcome ideological differences and work together in a common crisis. This was no doubt key to defeating the American scheme in its first stages, and this is an ability that will no doubt continue to baffle and defeat the aggressors for as long as they persist.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Toward an understanding of the National Iraqi resistance: Part I

Back in the year 2002, groups like Jalabi's Iraqi National Congress and others looked to the United States as the bulwark or battering ram of their opposition to Saddam, and it has become accepted wisdom that Iraqi activist politics at the time of the invasion was divided between the various US-supported groups on the one side (including the groups led by Jalabi and Allawi and the Iran-based SCIRI led by the Hakim family), and Baathist/Saddamist "dead-enders" on the other.

Of course there were others. There was an anti-Saddam Baath current; there was a branch of the Communist Party that rejected the main party's support for the US-inspired sanctions; there were many unaffiliated people who supported Saddam's nationalist stance while opposing the lack of freedoms. There were even some who, in 2002, had the foresight to realize that the US was about to invade the country, and that it would then be necessary for the anti-Saddam current to link up with the remnants of the regime in order to fight the Americans in the interests of the national integrity of Iraq.

Spokesmen for this point of view, grouped together as the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) took the risk of coming to Baghdad for discussions with Saddam during 2002, and they laid the groundwork for what was to become the national resistance. The story was told by INA head Abduljabbar al-Kubbaysi to an interviewer for a website called Free Arab Voices in December 2002, and while the FAV website doesn't have the file any more, fortunately it was archived as a result of having been translated and posted to a London-based site called Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (casi), where it is still available. (I quoted a couple of short excerpts from the interview back in Oct 2006 to illustrate one point in particular: Namely that Kubbaysi's foresight extended to more than the imminence of a US invasion; he was also able to predict that since the US-supported Iraqi-exile groups were all strictly sect- and/or race-based, an invasion that unleashed these groups would bring with it sectarian bloodshed). With those introductory remarks in mind, I would like to recommend a reading of the whole 2002 Kubbaysi interview, so here it is:

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[casi] opposition will fight US in Iraq

  • From: "Dirk Adriaensens"
  • Subject: [casi] opposition will fight US in Iraq
  • Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2002 22:12:00 +0100

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

Hello all,
there are two different kinds of "opposition". There is the opposition that "lays its eggs in the
nest of the US". And there is the opposition that will fight the US against a possible aggression,
alongside the Iraqi people and its leadership. I met several honest opponents (not paid by the
west) during my different visits in Iraq. And these people are willing to support the government
against the imperialist forces of the US/UK if they should decide to invade the country.
This is an interesting interview. Please read carefully. You won't read this kind of interviews in
our western media.
Dirk Adriaensens.

Interview in Baghdad with Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, a leading member of the patriotic Iraqi
Interview conducted by Ibrahim Alloush in Baghdad, 13 December 2002 (Free Arab Voice)

FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi, could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you became
an oppositionist?

Al-Kubaysi: My name is Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubaysi. I graduated in civil engineering from the American
University in Beirut in 1967. I remember that the last test I took that year took place on the 5th
of June - the day of the great set back.

I had joined the Arab Socialist Baath Party in 1958 at the age of 15. I was arrested in 1959 in the
days of Abd al-Karim Qasim, and again in 1960 because of my student activism. In 1961 I went to
Beirut and came back to Iraq after obtaining my university degree.

When I came back, I was required to perform my military service. I entered the reserve officers'
school and graduated at the head of my class. That gave me the right to choose the place where I
would serve my period of military conscription. I chose the al-Walid base near the Jordanian
border. The Palestinian resistance movement was in its infancy then. I used to spend my leaves in
Jordan - ten days every three weeks. I used to transport whatever weapons I could bring over, since
the nature of my work as an engineer of airstrips and bomb shelters involved frequent trips to
Jordan as part of my job, and I drove a military vehicle that was not subject to customs inspection.

After 17 July 1968, when Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr came to power in Iraq I was arrested for a period of
nine and a half months. I was then released but re-arrested a month later for a period of a year
and seven months. I was then released in June 1971.

FAV: Why were you arrested by your Baathi comrades who had just then taken power? Was it for some
specific charge, or because you belonged to the other wing of the Baath Party?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes, there was no specific charge. Maybe the first arrest was just a precautionary
measure because they had recently come to power. But the second period of incarceration came after
someone confessed that I was in the military branch of our wing of the Baath Party. That was arrest
without trial by the way.

But after I was released I returned to work at the oil company where I had been working before, and
it was a government-owned oil company, incidentally. Then I remained in Iraq working in the secret
organization of the other wing of the Baath Party until August 1976.

FAV: What happened in August 1976?

Al-Kubaysi: The top man in charge of secret work of the party in Iraq, Ahmad al-Azzawi, was
assassinated in Damascus. He had been a member of the pan-Arab leadership of the Party
headquartered in Syria. I was called on to go to Damascus to take his place.

FAV: So you showed your cards?

Al-Kubaysi: I went to Damascus with no intention of coming back. I had been working underground. I
left the country for Cairo and from there went to Damascus to become the official of the secret
organization in Iraq . . .

FAV: And you didn't go back to Iraq until . . .?

Al-Kubaysi: Until 11 November 2002, when I returned to Baghdad.

FAV: What were you doing in Syria?

Al-Kubaysi: I was a member of the Pan-Arab leadership of the Baath Party, in charge of the office
concerned with relations with all the Iraqi opposition groups, both Arabs and Kurds. In 1980 the
Democratic National Patriotic Front was formed in Damascus, uniting all the groups that were Iraqi
opposition parties. They had no chief, but there was a general secretariat, and I was one of its
members along with [Kurdish leader] Jalal al-Talibani and Aziz Muhammad from the Iraqi Communist
Party, and Awni al-Qalamji, and others. Membership in the Secretariat of the parties did not go to
individuals but to the parties and every party could chose its representative to the Secretariat.

FAV: But the relations with the Syrian regime began to sour after that?

Al-Kubaysi: On 13 July 1982 we issued a declaration in the name of the Baath Party and the Front
condemning attempts by Iran to attack Iraqi territory. Specifically, we had taken a stand against
the war from the beginning, and against the entry of Iraqi forces into Iran. So it wasn't
reasonable after that for us to agree to the entry of Iranian forces into Iraq. This worsened our
problems with the Syrian regime. Things came to a head some years later when Iran occupied Faw
Island, and we issued a declaration condemning the attempts at occupying Iraqi territory. As a
result of that I was put under house arrest in Damascus. A number of my Iraqi Baathi comrades who
were loyal to the Baath wing that was ruling in Damascus were arrested and were not released until

After that came the story of Kuwait, I mean, when Kuwait returned to Iraq. At that point there were
meetings with the Syrian leaders. They asked me to return to work with them, but I refused. So I
was again placed under house arrest, after I had briefly been let out. That continued until exactly
a week after the end of the Second Gulf War. After that, the security guards from around where I
lived were taken away. But I had no way to travel outside the country because I had no passport.
During the First Gulf War [the Iran-Iraq War] Iraqi opposition forces began to leave Syria, among
them the parties that have an Arab nationalist character, and some Communists who had severed their
connection with the Communist Party because of the Communist Party's fighting with the Iranian army
and because the Communist Party had fallen under the rule of the Kurds and the political influence
of the Syrian leadership. After the end of the Second Gulf War [the US Aggression against Iraq,
1990-1991] Iraqi oppositionists left in greater numbers from Syria, going to Europe. As for me, I
stayed in Syria until 1997. In 1996 they returned to me my Syrian diplomatic passport. When I used
it, I never returned to Syria.

FAV: How were your relations with the Iraqi opposition groups in Syria at that time?

Al-Kubaysi: We shared a common stand against the Iraqi regime and for democracy and freedoms in
Iraq. But political developments led to a split in the opposition into two blocs. These blocs
crystalized during the second period of the First Gulf War and during the 30-Nation Aggression
Against Iraq. One bloc of the opposition was made up of the official Communists and the two wings
of the Kurdish national movement. The other opposition bloc represented the Arab nationalist forces
and those Communists who refused to cooperate with Iran.

FAV: Mr. Abd al-Jabbar, you have come to Iraq as a representative of the Iraqi National Alliance
together with a delegation that includes five others who represent other wings of the leadership of
the Alliance. What exactly is the Iraqi National Alliance and who belongs to it?

Al-Kubaysi: The same groups that took a stand in Syria against the American aggression against Iraq
and later left for Europe. Before that they were the same people who had a position on Iran's
invasion of Iraq. All these groups held a congress in Sweden in June 1992 where they formed the
Iraqi National Alliance based on a view of the events that had taken place and on the basis of a
condemnation of the embargo on Iraq and a demand for the spread of freedoms there. The groups that
participate in the Iraqi National Alliance are:

The other wing of the Arab Baath Socialist Party,
The Socialist Unity Party (of Nasserite orientation),
The Arab Labour Party (Arab Nationalist - Marxist),
The Arab Socialist Movement (the remainder of the Arab Nationalists' Movement, mostly inclined to
The Kurdish Islamic Army,
The Kurdistan Peace Party (an elite of Kurdish intellectuals and journalists),
The patriotic current in the Iraqi Communist Party,
A group of independent political and intellectual figures.
FAV: What real political weight do all these organizations have with Iraqis in emigration?

Al-Kubaysi: We really have no way of posing the question in that form. Iraqi citizens abroad left
home in search of a living and none of the opposition parties have any real weight with them. This
is true not just of us but of the Iraqi opposition forces that obtain funds from the Arabian Gulf
regimes and which enjoy the political facilities that America imposes on the states of the world.
They have means, but they don't have any mass following. The number of Iraqi opposition
organizations abroad is 173, most of them being mercenary and having no authentic roots either in
Iraq or abroad.

FAV: OK. So, do you have a mass following inside Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes, we have a mass following inside Iraq. This is because we haven't come out of
nowhere. But we don't have organized forces. Historically, the Arab nationalist current in Iraq had
two wings: the Baath and the Arab Nationalists' Movement. We paralleled or more than paralleled the
currently ruling Baath current. Our masses are in agreement with the regime in broad patriotic and
Arab nationalist terms, but not on the issue of freedoms, which are still a matter on which we
differ. The ruling party rules by itself. The masses whom we met when we came here support the
regime in its patriotic and Arab nationalist orientations, and are ready to fight in defense of
Iraq against the embargo and any aggression. But they believe that the spread of political openness
will strengthen the resiliance of the homeland to aggression and embargo. These masses welcomed our
arrival. They considered it a step on the right path. Even if the regime wants to kill us we must
fight together with it against aggression. If we don't, we will lose the justification for our

FAV: You have anticipated my question regarding the reasons for your return to Iraq . . .

Al-Kubaysi: Since 1992, our political line has been against the American projects, and a
condemnation of those forces that cooperate with the foreigners. We endorsed the steadfastness of
our people, the rebuilding of our country and their standing up to the embargo. Since that time we
have been convinced that Iraq has entered into an historic confrontation which will have many
pages; the last was not turned in the year 1991. It is a confrontation that will continue in many
different ways. We are not convinced that the embargo will be lifted in a year or two. This
confrontation demands that an opportunity be given to releasing political freedoms. On this basis
we have appealed for a patriotic reconciliation to strengthen the resilience of our people to the
embargo and aggression.

In September 2000 we convened the Second Congress of the Iraqi National Alliance in London. It was
attended by 104 delegates from other countries. And I'd like to point out that the congress was
entirely self-funded by the participants.

FAV: Haven't the Americans tried to build bridges to the Iraqi National Alliance or to make contact
with you?

Al-Kubaysi: Never. This is because our position on them is well known. We call for fighting them.
We held demonstrations against them in front of the American embassies in western Europe to demand
an end to the embargo and in protest against the continued American genocide of Iraqi children.

FAV: What about the other opposition forces, the ones that cooperate with America, such as the
Iraqi National Congress? Have they not tried to coordinate with you?

Al-Kubaysi: They are creatures of the Central Intelligence Agency. These are groupings that were
hidden in deep freeze that they brought out and thawed out a little. Many of their figures were
part of the regime, by the way. When things got bad in the country, they simply "packed their bags"
and left to join the other side.

FAV: What about the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq? Have they tried to contact you?

Al-Kubaysi: the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is an Iranian card (arm). Its base is
with some of the Iraqi prisoners captured in the Iran-Iraq war and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Among their leaders there is not one native Iraqi. Even Baqir al-Hakim is originally from Isfahan,
Iran, not Iraq. And they haven't tried to make contact with us either.

FAV: And in the Kurdish north of Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Up there there are the official Communists and the two Kurdish wings that existed
before 1991. These are movements that are native to Iraq. As to the Kurdish movements, we are in
contact with certain individuals. As to the political movements, we cut off contact with them in
1991. As regards the Communists, two patriotic blocs have split off from them. One of them is with
us in the National Alliance (the bloc of Khalid Salam and Ahmad Karim) and the other bloc is the
Advanced Cadre (the bloc of the member of the Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party, Baqir
Ibrahim al-Mousawi). We are in weekly contact with them. They don't want to enter into any
coalitions before their own organization has crystallized. The official Iraqi Communist Party is
under the influence of the Kurdish National Movement, but more than half of its rank and file
members at least are patriotic individuals about whom there can be no doubt.

If there were in Iraq a call for reconciliation, and if we are able to create an atmosphere of
tolerance and mutual respect, I believe that those brothers in the Iraqi Communist Party would not
accept the course of their current leaders and would return to their country to form their own
patriotic Communist bloc. The real bloc in the Communist Party is patriotic, without doubt. But the
American efforts directed at Iraqis abroad and the lack of d�tente inside Iraq puts this patriotic
bloc in its present situation. As to the leaders of the Communist Party, they have drowned in
Kuwaiti money. The US State Department issued a list of 17 Iraqi organizations that have been
receiving funds from it when it was asked by the US Congress which parties outside the Iraqi
National Congress are receiving American money. This list included the name of a club or platform
of Iraqi Communist intellectuals in London.

FAV: Are we to understand from all that that there is no Iraqi opposition abroad with any weight or
credibility which could form an alternative to the regime?

Al-Kubaysi: No! [There isn't.]

FAV: Even those who are with the Iranians?

Al-Kubaysi: You said "Iraqi", not extensions of the Iranians. Be aware of the fact that the
opposition abroad is split up along ethnic and confessional lines. If America brings them in, there
will be massacres in Iraq, because they are oppositions that are narrowly restricted in terms of
what religious and ethnic groups belong to them. Not only that, but there are six or seven Turkmen
parties, for example. In addition there are three Assyrian organizations. These have never
established Iraqi organizations; rather they have established a climate and a basis for the growth
of real domestic civil warfare. There will be blood-letting if they are fated one day to take
power. From this we see the importance of the movements in our Iraqi National Alliance and of the
rank-and-file of the Communist Party (whose leaders are now pursuing a destructive and unpatriotic

The real patriotic Iraqi oppositionists today are the ones who own nothing and are supported by no
foreign state. If they came to Iraq, they would come together on the basis of their patriotic line
in it. Even the Kurds. I am not saying that the Kurdish movement as a whole is a creature of the
Mossad and CIA, but there is no doubt that the Mossad and the CIA take advantage of the Kurdish

FAV: Since these are your positions, why has it taken you so long to return to Iraq?

Al-Kubaysi: Let me first make clear that I am not a criminal who has come back under some sort of
amnesty. There was an environment of very costly infighting. For example, my two brothers were
executed in 1981, for no reason other than being my brothers. Such an environment of infighting
requires a long time to create an atmosphere of trust. The leadership in Iraq was meeting us in the
past while totally focused on the work of lifting the embargo. Our viewpoint was that the
precondition for confronting the embargo was the spread of an atmosphere of reconciliation with
Iraqi patriots, not the postponement of such a reconciliation. Let me make clear that we have no
aspirations to taking power, nor will we accept a share in power. But we want a chance to fight in
defense of the homeland. After occasional meetings over a period of years we received an official
invitation to come, based on a resolution of the Iraqi leadership to engage in preparing
legislation, as we have been told, to provide for political pluralism and freedom of the press for
political parties, and also providing for undertaking a series of measures to create an atmosphere
of tolerance. We were supposed to arrive two months ago, but we did not receive the necessary
entrance visas until the beginning of November.

FAV: How were you received? How did your meetings with officials go?

Al-Kubaysi: We were received well and the meetings were warm. The officials praised our making the
effort to come. We presented the need for mutual respect and the spread of an atmosphere of
reconciliation, and we presented the need for permission to be granted for political parties to be
formed and for the emergence of a free press ON THE BASIS OF RESISTANCE TO AGGRESSION AND AMERICA'S
PROJECTS IN THE REGION. We emphasized the importance of working to rally the forces and make
national unity firm again, noting that these are the basic tools for resistance. We might not be
able to win militarily, but we can resist and resistance is what can raise the cost of aggression
to the extent that it forces the enemy to withdraw. We said that we hope that the leadership will
be flexible in dealing with the matter of weapons and inspections because the fact that war does
not happen is itself a victory for Iraq.

FAV: Did you find the leadership receptive to what you proposed about pluralism on a patriotic
basis, and are there actual steps being taken in this regard, and a specific schedule?

Al-Kubaysi: A Supreme Committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Dr. Izzat Ibrahim to prepare
a constitution and a law of political party pluralism and a law on the press that gives parties the
right to issue newspapers. We were told that the preparation of drafts will take at least a month.
After that these laws must be brought to the Legislative Council, and this will take some time too.
But as for us in the Iraqi National Alliance, we have been told that we can implement these rights
immediately under the provision that they are "under construction".

FAV: Will you make use of this offer?

Al-Kubaysi: We must go back to Europe to discuss these matters with our brothers. It is possible
that some of us will come to work on the basis of this offer within three months, and that after
that a larger number of us would come at the start of next summer. But until that time, the Iraqi
state can, and indeed must, resolve to augment these laws to facilitate life for the citizens, and
to cancel all the measures of a coercive nature. For example, with respect to the infighting
amongst patriotic forces that has gone on since 1959, we hope that a decree will be issued whereby
all those who fell or were killed in this internal struggle from all parties will be considered
martyrs for Iraq and not martyrs of this or that political party. This will help many families
regain status and reduce the administrative hindrances to their exercising their civil and natural
rights and it won't cost the regime anything. Similarly, there must be compensation for the
families of those executed and whose property was expropriated. Also the language used with all the
opposition groups must be the language of reconciliation. They have said that every Iraqi
oppositionist, however far he's gone in attacking the regime may return without being questioned or
interrogated or pursued. They have said that the only ones they will pursue will be those who take
part in American or Zionist intelligence efforts. We hope that this position will be reflected in
announcements and in official statements. However an Iraqi abroad may have erred, this goes back to
American efforts and the absence of any reconciliatory dialogue domestically in Iraq. We must break
up this American effort by means of internal reconciliation. The biggest bloc of them is not
treacherous, but patriotic. We differ from some of them, yes, but to fight among ourselves, or make
one another our enemy? No. Some of them have attacked us in our demonstrations yet inspite of that
we have not lost our vision with respect to them. We must save them from the circle of error, and
the Iraqi state bears responsibility for this.

Iraq is a country that has become great abroad by mounting a confrontation on behalf of the Arabs
and all of humanity against American aggression. It is appropriate for this country to have a
domestic project that is also great.

FAV: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

Al-Kubaysi: Yes. I want to say that limiting the confrontation with aggression to the geography of
Iraq is not in the interest of the Arab Nation. I am not talking about fighting the aggressors
outside of Iraq here. Rather I am saying that we must build a model for political life in Iraq that
binds the whole Arab Nation to it. It must be a positive model for the entire Arab Homeland. We
must build a political life that we can be proud of, a model for the Third World beyond the Arab
Homeland. All of humanity will one day discover that they are indebted to the Iraqis for
confronting American savagery. So we must cause the "dictatorship card" to fall from America's
hand, the way we have made them drop the excuse of "mass destruction weapons". We know that they do
not want democracy. Democracy does not come from missiles and gunboats. We have an Arab National
project for renaissance and we want to fight the Zionist project in our countries. We must,
therefore, build a fighting political force. The issue is not only an issue of stability of the
regime. It is an issue of how to spread the project of Arab renaissance throughout the Arab
homeland. I do not want a government post as long as I live. I only want my right to an independent
opinion, not subjected to the authorities. We know that the leadership in Iraq was told more than
two weeks before UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was passed that Iraq's problems could be
solved if it agreed to establish relations with "Israel" in the framework of a so-called "just and
lasting peace", and that they rejected this unequivocally. They remain insistent upon this
rejection, and we cannot differ from them.

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