Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Letter To Condoleezza Rice

Jihad Khazen
Al-Hayat - 24/10/05

Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Department of State
Washington D.C.

Dear Dr. Rice

Please accept my greetings and best wishes for your personal and professional success.
First an admission: I am opposed to the U.S. policy in the Middle East. I am not opposed to the whole U.S. foreign policy, but rather to that part of it that concerns our region. As such I consider myself a closer ally of the U.S. than Tony Blair. Also, many members of my immediate and extended family are American citizens. My two brothers, sister, their children, my mother and son are all American citizens. And they are good citizens; they don't indulge in double loyalty.
Another admission is that I was not on your side when you burst on the scene at the start of President Bush's first term. I moved to your side gradually, seeing that you are highly intelligent and independent. I don't have many talents, but one of the few unimportant talents that I have is to see little things. I saw that you sided with your predecessor Colin Powell against the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal when the two sides quarreled over policy. Last month I saw that you did not mention the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip in your speech at the U.N. General Assembly, and I understood that you did not regard it as an achievement for which Ariel Sharon deserved to be congratulated.
One last word before moving to the subject of this letter. For over two years now, I have been completely on your side, supporting your work and finding excuses for what I don't like. I also support the work of Karen Hughes and Dina Powell (and also John Negroponte). You see, I support or oppose with open eyes.
Now to the subject of this letter. As I want you to succeed I will offer you useful information to help you in conducting your work. My material is from primary sources, or the horse's mouth, and I insist it is more accurate than traditional diplomatic and intelligence reports. So here I go.
Mahmoud Abbas is a man of peace, and you won't find a better Palestinian leader to help you in the quest for peace. The Palestinians are split among those who want to resist, those who want to negotiate and resist and those who want to negotiate. Abu Mazen is of the third group. Yasser Arafat was of the second, and known Palestinian groups are still of the first,
For years now I have been party to every Palestinian ceasefire or calming effort. I carried (oral) messages back and forth, and used whatever influence I have to push all to stop suicide bombings. All the time Abu Mazen was on the side of peace.
If you help the Palestinian leaders you will help yourselves.
Ariel Sharon is the exact opposite, an enemy of peace who changed Gaza from occupied territory to a concentration camp. But enough of my opinion and some uncontested Israeli figures:
Between Sept. 29, 2000, and Sept. 30, 2005, or five years of the second intifada, 3330 Palestinians civilians were killed against 668 Israeli civilians. Of those 660 under age Palestinians were killed against 117 Israelis. The ratio is five or six to one, so if the Palestinian groups are terrorist once, the Israeli army and settlers are terrorist five or six times.
Other figures show that Sharon withdrew from 19 square miles in Gaza, while seizing, since July, 23 square miles of the West Bank. He withdrew 8500 settlers from the Strip and added during the same period, 14000 settlers to the West Bank. Expansion of settlements in the West Bank is running at break neck pace.
Madame Secretary, the security wall runs through the playground of the boy's high school in Anata, and the village land has been annexed by a nearby settlement.
Ariel Sharon is the proverbial sack of coal. We say in Arabic that however you hold a sack of coal you end up with dirt on your hands. Every time you engage Sharon you dirty your hands and increase enmity among 1.2 billion Muslims.
On Iraq, I completely agree with you that what we see there is terrorism, not resistance. I want all Arab and Muslim nations to support the U.S. in the war against terrorism, and accuse apologists for the terrorists of being partners in crime, exactly like the criminal class of neocons in your country who try to justify Israeli terrorism.
One piece of brotherly advice: refrain from actions that remind us of Israeli practices. A few days ago air raids against Ramadi killed 90 people. You said terrorists, but the local people insisted they were town folks.
Israel has always been in the habit of killing civilians and claiming they are terrorists.
On Iran, I notice that it says its nuclear program is for civilian use. Maybe it is now, but like you I suspect that the ultimate goal is a nuclear bomb as an insurance policy in a volatile region.
As a citizen of the region it is my wish and desire to see it free of all weapons of mass destruction. But if Israel remains the only nuclear power in the region then I'd support Iran and every other country in seeking similar weapons. In other words, I am with you for a nuclear free Middle East, and with Iran if it is singled out. By the way, the Iran-Syria alliance remains standing and strong. Hizbullah will not disarm. You and I will live and see. Please try to engage Syria. You will not get something for nothing. Try some bait. It works better than nothing.

My very best regards,

Jihad Khazen

Monday, October 17, 2005

Even Chad Has Defeated Him

Jihad Khazen Al-Hayat - 14/10/05

Colonel Moammar Qaddhafi is a living example of how not to be a president.During 36 years of rule, he has committed all sorts of mistakes, sins, and crimes, without one redeeming quality to his name, even as a coincidence. You could give a monkey a typewriter and let him type away for a few decades, and with the law of probabilities, might end up typing “to be or not to be.”
Brother Moammar (he's not my brother, of course - it's what he's called officially) wrote the Green Book; he's a poet, philosopher and novelist, as he modestly describes himself. He's nothing of the sort. The Green Book is unreadable, unless as unintentional farce.I say to all presidents of the world, Arab and non-Arab, that they should learn from Moammar Qaddhafi. Just watch what the Libyan leader does and either not do it or do the opposite. This way, you'll never wrong your people or any of the world's other peoples.Machiavelli advised his Prince about what to do. I advise modern presidents what not to do drawing on Colonel Qaddhafi's record. The following acts are no-no:-work for Don Quixotic unity that ends up seeing people go sour on the idea of unity.-put opponents in prison or liquidate them, or go after them abroad and assassinate them in London, or kill the policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, or any policewoman, whatever her name.-see Imam Mussa Sadr disappear in your country.-kidnap Mansour Kikhia in Egypt, bring him to Libya and have him killed.-bomb La Belle disco in Berlin because the US air raids in response killed dozens of Libyans, including your adopted daughter, who would have been alive if not for the disco bombing.-attack Chad, so that Chad doesn't defeat you.-finance terror and cooperate with terrorists.-blow up a civilian plane over Lockerbie, killing 270 civilians, see a Libyan intelligence operative jailed, pay $2.7 billion to the families of the victims instead of paying to fight poverty in Africa.-surprise us by arguing that you're African, and not Arab. I wish you were. A person can divorce a spouse, but not a father or mother (Qaddhafi is Arab, despite us and despite himself and despite our wishes).-spend years trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear ones, as you don't know how to use conventional weapons, as we have seen in Chad.-try to assassinate then-Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz, who is now King Abdullah.The conspiracy did take place, and I have additional information about it, which can be added to the details that we already know. Abdel-Rahman al-Amoudi has been sentenced to 23 years in the US after he tried to recruit Saudi dissidents in London to carry out the plot. The Saudi authorities arrested conspirators, including 4 Libyan intelligence agents; they have been pardoned by King Abdullah.The King must have considerations of state to prompt the pardon, as he knows that the plot was real 100 per cent.And all of these incidents mentioned above have failed to prevent Moammar Qaddhafi from becoming America's partner in fighting terrorism after being America’s number one enemy.The Libyan regime did not change out of fear of the fate that befell Saddam Hussein (and Aisha Qaddhafi continues to defend him). The gradual transformation actually began in the mid-1990s, after Qaddhafi realized the threat of extremists Islamist groups to his regime. The Armed Islamic Group tried to kill him in 1996 and perhaps in 1998 and 1999. This ended when information from the Far East, with the help of the CIA, led to the arrest of the group's leader, Abdullah Sadeq, in Thailand, and his deputy Abu Munzer al-Saadi in Hong Kong. They were handed over to Libya, where they're now in prison.Stranger than the CIA's help in arresting opponents of Qaddhafi is that the country is now a candidate, with 9 other countries, in a $500 million US program to fight al-Qaida in the region.And even more strangely, Mousa Kousa, the head of external intelligence, is the chief liaison with US intelligence, even though the verdict against Abdel-Basset Magrahi (from the Lockerbie case) mentioned that "he worked in the service of Libyan intelligence's goals."Kousa was the head of the diplomatic mission in London when two Libyans were assassinated, and he was expelled; his name has been linked with almost every terrorist act by Libya, including the plot against King Abdullah.Even so, Mousa Kousa was behind Libya's giving up its nuclear program. The country turned over 55,000 pounds of nuclear equipment, without even being close to producing anything. Behind Kousa is Saif al-Islam Qaddhafi, who runs Libya's foreign policy from London, helped by minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam. There are direct contacts with the neo-conservatives and the Jewish lobby in the US.Colonel Qaddhafi released the famous opposition member Fathi al-Jahmi from prison and President Bush welcomed the move, calling him a "brave opponent." The bravery didn't benefit al-Jahmi since he was re-imprisoned after two television interviews.
President Bush, however, said in April 2004 that Libya had turned its back on terrorism. State Department officials have traveled to Libya and diplomatic relations restored. A month later American companies won big oil contracts against European competition, and this is the important point in the whole matter.Now, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning to visit Libya, although it remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, issued by the State Department. However, Congressman Tom Lantos, an old Likudnik, visited Libya and met with Mousa Kousa, even though is on Congress’s human rights "team." Afterward, Lantos asked that Libya be taken off the list of state sponsors of terror.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Arabs...It's No Use

Jihad Khazen

Al-Hayat 26/09/2005

The Palestine cause is generous with all peoples of the world except its own. All a country needs is to "normalize" relations with Israel and U.S. aid pours in and its ruling dictator lionized.
This has always been the case even before the neo-cons hijacked U.S. foreign policy. In the nineties the American team to the newly independent Muslim states of Central Asia was made up of Israeli apologists whose first condition in return for American aid was to recognize Israel and establish economic relations with it. The practice remains very much alive, and now unrepresentative Arab leaders need only to start a process of normalization with Israel and the Washington administration immediately forgets supporting terror, human rights abuses and political prisoners and missing opposition figures.
All this is committed at the expense of the Palestine cause and the Palestinian people. And I was reminded of it by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom at the U.N. General Assembly the other day.
He was optimistic, almost euphoric, as he said, "The Iron Wall that has defined Israel's relations with most of the Arab and Muslim world for generations is coming down."
The "Iron Wall" is coming down while the security wall is going up to cut Palestinian families from each other and from their livelihood, isolate Jerusalem and usurp its holy places.
I want to be clear to the point of rudeness: Ariel Sharon has killed about 3400 Palestinian civilians in the last five years, including about 660 underage children. Those Arab leaders dealing with him outside peace treaties are partners in his crimes and the blood of Palestinian children is on their hands.
In New York, Shalom said, "Here in New York this week, I have had the honor of meeting with more than ten of my colleagues from the Arab and Muslim world, a number unthinkable even two years ago." He also said, "Unfortunately, many of our ties with the Arab and Muslim world are still in the shadows, away from the public eye. Today, I call on my Arab and Muslim colleagues to bring out our contacts into the light of day..."
Shalom did not only say that he met Arab and Muslim "colleagues" but that they had asked him to keep the meetings secret. Why would an Arab or Muslim minister want to meet Shalom secretly? It is because he knows that he is committing a mistake, sin or national treason.
Those ministers are so miserable that they went to Shalom in his office instead of asking him to come to them. In the General Assembly, I sit with the Lebanese delegation and the Israeli delegation is almost always in front of us because of the alphabetical order of assigning seats. The Israelis in front smile and try to talk to us. We have always refused, including this year, without being ministers or senior officials.
I support full normal relations with Israel but only after peace not before it. Why would an Israeli government, under Sharon or Binyamin Netanyahu, make peace with the Palestinians if it is getting alll the benefits of peace without the cost of withdrawing from all the occupied territories?
Worse than meeting Shalom was some of the justifications. I heard that President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan sought the advice, or asked permission, from Saudi Arabia. But Musharraf has come of age a long time ago and Saudi Arabia is not a custodian of Pakistan. The difference between the two countries is that King Abdullah will not meet Sharon and Foreign Minister Saud Al Feisal will not meet Shalom. Another difference is that the Saudi king did not seize power in a coup.
Two other points in Shalom's speech:
He said, "Responsibility for the affairs of Gaza and its residents is now in Palestinian hands." But responsibility for daily death and destruction remains in Israel's hands in a strip of land that was occupied territory and is now a Nazi-style concentration camp.
He also opposed Hamas' role in Palestinian politics and said, "We will not cooperate with its desire to participate in the forthcoming Palestinian elections." Now this is might undemocratic from the "only democracy in the Middle East" and the reason is an unmitigated brazen categorical lie. If Hamas is a terrorist organization what about the Israeli army. Once again I refer to 3400 Palestinian civilians killed in the last five years against 660 Israeli civilians, a ratio of almost five to one. And the figures are worse for underage children where until the end of last month 657 Palestinian children were killed against 116 Israeli children, a ratio of six to one. If Hamas is terrorist once the Israel army is terrorist five or six times. There is no escaping this; the general definition of a terrorist act is killing non-combatant civilians.
All this Israeli terrorism does not deter the Arab and Muslim officials from meeting Shalom so he now wants the U.N. to observe a holocaust remembrance but not to remember the Palestinian victims of the survivors of the Nazis. He also boasts that in November he will sit with his Arab and Muslim "Colleagues" at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia (to which Sharon has been invited), and says that for the first time Israel would seek a seat at the Security Council.
So after "Zionism is racism" there is talk of one holocaust but not the other, and after an Arab leader hosted the Palestinians in his country on leaving Lebanon during the Israel invasion, we have a leader who host Sharon.
The Arabs...it's no use.

The Key is To Defeat Terrorism

Jihad Khazen

Al-Hayat 25/09/2005

While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made no mention of Syria in her speech to the U.N. General Assembly, she warned and threatened in her meetings with the various Arab delegations so I chose to talk about Syria with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zibari before continuing with Iraq.
I noted that President Jalal Talbani, in view of his old relations with Syria, believes that any problem with the Syrian "brothers" (they are always referred to as brothers) can and will be solved. Hoshiar takes a more reserved line and readily admits that relations with the Syrians are difficult. He said that he found Dr. Rice very critical of Syrian policies, accusing the regime of fomenting trouble for neighbors in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
President Bush said his administration was after a change of attitude not a change of regime in Syria. The Arabs who met Dr. Rice came out with the impression that American patience is running thin. The Iraqi foreign minister said the Iraqis were pained by the Syrian position vis-à-vis their country. President Hafez Assad, he added, had built huge credit with the opposition now in power in Baghdad, but instead of utilizing this credit Damascus chose to ignore or squander it.
Hoshiar said he could not understand why Damascus is not exploiting its credit with its allies who have now assumed office in Baghdad.
I told Hoshiar, an old and trusted friend, that maybe the Syrians are like me and do not trust a regime installed by American military power and whose very survival is dependent on this power. I must add here that the danger to Syria of the tension with the U.S. and Iraq remains less important than the findings of the investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon. The
German investigator Detlev Mehlis is expected to hand his report to the Security Council by mid-October and everyone is awaiting to see the names of the suspects and how high up they go in Lebanon and Syria.
Syria was absent from the U.N. summit and this year's General Assembly debate. It was the first time I did not see Foreign Minister Farouk el Shara'. Syria was represented by head of mission Feisal Miqdad who had an extremely difficult task on his hands.
The trouble with the Syrian position is that the truth is hidden behind a cloud of sinister rumors, many of which must be outright fabrications. But there is no smoke without fire and alleged leaks from the Mehlis report should make the Syrian leadership very worried.
Hoshiar Zibari told me that Syria has the ability to help improve the Iraqi security situation but asked if Syria had the will or desire to help. He said, "We are telling our Syrian brothers come over and talk to us. We don't need an American interlocutor between us."
Among steps considered by the Americans to exert pressure on Syria is closing its border with Jordan and Turkey as well as Iraq. They accuse Syria of hosting former Saddam Baathists and of financial dealings and bribes. They cite how the Syrians denied knowing the whereabouts of five Saddam officials, but under pressure staged the arrest of Sab'awi, Saddam's half brother, in Lebanon. The Americans claim that they know exactly how he was transferred to Lebanon and his arrest staged.
The foreign Minister insisted that it was far more beneficial to the Syrians to deal with an Iraqi leadership well known to them and promises that the Iraqi government would never allow the Americans to attack Syria from Iraqi territory.
I believe Hoshiar but would the Americans ask permission if they decide to attack Syria from Iraqi territory?
On Iraq and the constitution, the Foreign Minister expected a strong turnout in the referendum and opposition from nay Sunnis who will not boycott the political process this time, but he said the constitution will be approved in the referendum next month to allow for parliamentary elections two months later.
He saw four main groups will fight the elections: the Iraqi National Coalition of Shiite parties which may not hold together to the end, the Kurdish coalition, Sunni Arabs of a fundamentalist hue, a centrist liberal national grouping of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Adnan Pachachi and leftist parties.
If elections are fought according to this scenario, the Foreign Minister expects a far more representative parliament than the present assembly. The elections will be fought in governorates and not under a national slate as the last elections. Forty five seats are reserved for minorities in accordance with their showing nation-wide and women's share is guaranteed.
Finally, I asked Hoshiar about persistent rumors of disagreement between President Talbani and Prime Minister Jaafari. He said there is rivalry but no big disagreement, and blamed this on overlapping responsibilities under the present rules and regulations which put power in the hands of the presidency, the prime minister's office, parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council, with each side interpreting the law as befits its own interests.
He hoped that the picture will become clearer after the elections. My hope is to see an end to terrorism in Iraq. It is terrorism not resistance.

World Leaders are Color Blind

Jihad Khazen

Al-Hayat 23/09/2005

I believe that world leaders are color blind. Defective political vision is worse and many leaders suffer from that as well, but i noticed at the U.N. summit in New York that all the leaders failed to see the red light which told them that their five minutes of fame are up. Each would continue oblivious to the red light under his nose while I could see it from 20 rows back. They obviously think that the future of the world as we know it depends on the tidbits of wisdom that they pass on to us ingrates.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Frias, a well-known opponent of U.S. policies world-wide, spoke for five minutes, then another five and still five more. Finally, Assembly President Jan Eliasson sent him a note with one of the ushers. Chavez turned to the rostrum and asked: When George Bush spoke yesterday for 24 minutes did you send him a note? He rejected the U.N. Summit's document, and asked the world to reject it with him. He said it was imposed in the last five minutes by the hammer of a dictator.
There is always someone at the General Assembly to provide the entertainment to the otherwise august body. Last year it was Robert Mugabe of Zambia who said that delegates were acting like George Bush was God and Tony Blair his messenger.
The fireworks usually came from Fidel Castro who was always entertaining, but Cuba was represented this year by Ricardo Alacron de Quesada, president of the National Assembly of People's Power, who delivered a monotonous speech that put many of the listeners to sleep.
Still, the U.N. is very democratic; the prince of Monaco speaks as much, or as long, as the prime minister of India, and Bahrain was followed by China. And I doubt that the reader has heard of many countries equally represented at the world body: Tuvalu, Timor Liste, Vanatu, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kiribati, Micronesia (which votes with the U.S. and Israel forming a formidable bloc), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and so on. By comparison, countries like Lesotho, Surinam and the Holy See become great powers.
Kiribati has still to catch my eye as I am sure it is a beautiful place somewhere. President Anote Tong, however, caught my ear as he spoke in detail about investment, the environment, peace, terrorism, international organized crime, reforming the world body and expanding the Security Council. What would the world do without Kiribati. No offense intended as the world is doing fine thank you without 22 Arab countries.
Now I pose the one million riyal question to the reader: who is the president of Indonesia? I am glad you did not risk going back to 32,000 riyals. The answer is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. So after Sukarno, the non-aligned movement and Bandung, after Suharto, we have Susilo.
As i attend the annual General Assembly session as a delegate rather than a journalist, I move about Arab delegations in the big hall but mostly sit with the Lebanese. This year I was saddened at the sudden passing away of Ambassador Sami Qurunful. I found Ibrahim Asssaf acting in his place, helped by Majdi Ramadan as counselor. There was also a budding diplomat Karine Kalloustian who otherwise is working for a doctorate at Purdue University. If she becomes rich and famous in later years I hope she would remember that I was the first to put her name in print.
The young and enthusiastic Lebanese team makes up for the unfortunate view. Because of the alphabetical order the Lebanese delegation is always behind the Israeli, whether we end up right, left or centering the hall. It is not nice trying to see a speaker and seeing with him the back of Silvan Shalom's neck. I think he is losing his hair and being the one and only Arab peacenik I don't wish him to lose anything else. The Israelis might have thought this year that we would speak to them, considering the changes in Lebanon. Only after peace.
I won't talk today about the speeches. Al Hayat has had an exhaustive coverage of the political events. The length of some speeches is another matter. We calculated the Crown Prince Sultan would speak at about five p.m., but we were still waiting at six, then at 6:30. He finally spoke at about quarter to seven, or the next day in Saudi Arabia. He was still luckier than Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed who followed Ariel Sharon and told the truth as Sharon would never recognize it.
In English they say "luck of the draw" and a lucky country at the General Assembly would precede a big country like the U.S. But it is out of luck if it follows a big country as the hall empties quickly and the unfortunate leaders ends up addressing his own delegation. I followed Arab speakers regardless of their position on the list but would add to them Prime Minister Said Musa of Belize. He is of Palestinian origin, from Bireh near Ramallah.
If nothing else, the assembly session is educational and I learned there that the full title of the Sultan of Brunei is His Majesty Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di Pertusan of Negara of Brunei Darussalam. Why not? If I had half his money I'd insist on a title twice as long. My personal observation about member states is a variation on an old adage that the smaller the country the longer the national anthem. My observation is that the smaller the country the longer the title of its leader. So Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was represented by His Excellency the Honorable Ralph Everada Gonsalves, Prime Minister, minister for Finance, planning economic development, labor, information Grenadines and legal affairs Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Maybe there isn't enough population to fill all these posts.
The annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly provides an opportunity to meet Arab and world leaders under one roof. At times the meetings start before you get there. This year, and for the second year running, I found myself sharing a flight from London to New York with the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. This gave me the opportunity for a long talk with him about Arab, especially Palestinian affairs. I doubt that he could have spared me an hour on the ground. I followed his busy schedule in New York and am glad I don't have to work as much.

Iraq's Arabism is not Negotiable

Jihad El Khazen

Al-Hayat 24/09/2005

Iraqi President Jalal Talbani is an old friend. I have known him for many years and our relationship has survived the ups and downs of the Kurdish problem. Saddam Hussein must have played a role in enhancing my friendship with the Kurds: the more he terrorized them, the more I found my self taking their side against the Baghdad government. Last week, I saw Mam (Kurdish for uncle) Jalal at the United Nations headquarters in New York and addressed him as we embraced "Your Excellency." He smiled and admonished me saying: Jalal.

New York is a long way from the headquarters of the leader of the Kurdistan National Union Party near Dukan Dam in Northern Iraq where I last saw him on the eve of the war that toppled Saddam. In New York this time, the Iraqis were very popular. President Talbani, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zibari must have attended, between them, over a hundred bilateral meetings, in addition to the advertised multi-lateral and general meetings. They saw everyone from President Bush to heads of missions.

President Talbani says that I am the friend who has not changed. I told him that at my age it is too late to change. I was glad that he did not change his attitude towards Syria. In meetings with President Bush and other top administration officials he warned that the only alternative to the present government in Syria is an Islamic regime. President Bush assured him that his administration wants a change of attitude in Syria, not regime change.

The Iraqi leader is unhappy with his "allies" in Syria but for other reasons. He complains that they took in Saddam's Baathists believing that they could work together.

I stop to add that I have heard two versions of President Bush's meeting with the Iraqis. Others said that the president warned Syria and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused the Damascus regime of sabotage in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

There are now contacts to arrange a state visit by President Talbani to Damascus. Maybe he will succeed in pointing out to his Syria friends where they went wrong in handling the Iraqi situation. As we talked in the Delegates' Lounge at the U.N. headquarters he drew a contrast with the attitude of Iran after the regime change in Iraq. He said the Iranians understood quickly the rules of the new game and established alliances which gave them great influence inside Iraq. He admitted that Iran benefited from the Shiite dimension but said that Syria also held many important cards in Iraq, the most important of which is that its traditional allies are now in government in Baghdad. The Syrian and Iraqi Baaths were always at loggerheads, conspiring against each other and the Syrian Baath today made no logic in accommodating its former rivals, he said.
The U.N. summit and the General Assembly session provided an opportunity to meet about 170 heads of state and government and other delegates from the 191 member states. I moved from Talbani's table at the lounge to sit with Prime Minister Jaafari.

I found Dr. Jaafari unhappy with the lack of Arab diplomatic representation in Baghdad, especially that Arab countries have made a big issue of Iraq's Arabism in the constitution.

I told him: Brother Hoshiar is seated to my right and he will hear what I am going to tell you. I met Hoshiar at the World Economic Forum's regional conference by the Dead Sea in May and he complained to me that he had in Baghdad ambassadors and other diplomats from 51 foreign countries but none from the Arab world. We agreed that I write a column exhorting the Arabs to send their ambassadors to Baghdad which I duly did. What happened next? The Egyptian ambassador and two Algerian diplomats were killed, the Bahraini ambassador was attacked and badly wounded and, before that, the Jordanian Embassy was bombed.

Dr. Jaafari appealed to the Arabs to send their diplomats to Baghdad again and I promised to report his position which I am doing now without endorsing it, considering what happened the last time. The prime minister insists that the security situation in his country is getting better, or is better that what is reported in the press. He says the terrorists can only undertake suicide bombings and assassinations, but they do not control one street, town or area of the whole country.

Maybe. A prime Minister is expected to put a positive gloss on whatever the situation is in his country. When I am convinced I'll take up President Talbani's invitation to go with him to Baghdad on the presidential plane.
I asked the prime minister about the Constitution. He said that certain parties had a pre-set attitude against it. There was a great deal of politics in discussing articles of the constitution despite the fact that it included some excellent articles to benefit all Iraqis. He expected the constitution to be approved in a referendum next month to allow parliamentary elections in mid-December.

The Prime Minister himself has no problem with a reference in the Constitution that Iraq is an Arab country, but he said there was opposition. Arab countries protested loudly over the absence of a clear reference to the Arabism of Iraq and the prime minister said that suggestion have been made to break the impasse. At the U.N. I joked with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa that for once the statement on the subject by Abdul Rahman El Attieh, the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general, was much stronger than his. I saw both men at the U.N. and they were adamant that Iraq's Arabism is not negotiable.

I hope that my Kurdish brothers will not object again. Iraq without them is not Iraq, just as Lebanon without its Christians and Muslims is not Lebanon.

To me, however, the most pressing issue for Iraq at the moment is to defeat terrorism. It is terrorism, not resistance.

Terrorism, Poverty and Reform

Jihad El Khazen

Al-Hayat 22/09/2005

Talking about terrorism at the U.N. General Assembly is like talking about sin at church. They are against it.One speech would have sufficed. Instead delegates had to endure 190 other speakers, all equally unanimous in supporting reform of the world body and fighting poverty.In such a gathering, some speeches are important by what they leave out. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made no reference to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, did not congratulate Ariel Sharon for transforming the strip from occupied territory to a concentration camp, and did not recommend the septuagenarian war criminal for a Nobel Peace Prize.On the other hand, Saudi Crown Prince Sultan ben Abdul Aziz would not go to New York to talk about the green house effect. He chose the occasion to reiterate his country's support for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and to stress Iraq's Arabism and unity. And when the foreign minister, Prince Saud Al Feisal addressed the General Assembly three days later, he chose his words carefully citing the withdrawal from Gaza without praise or crtiticism and demanding further Israeli steps to withdraw from all the territories occupied in 1967. On this point, the Qatar and UAE speeches were almost identical to the Saudi.Sheikh Abdullah ben Rashid, the UAE minister of information and culture, made references to Iraq and Palestine but also reminded the assembly of three small UAE islands in the Guld occupied by Iran.Many Arab speeches at the U.N. summit did not mention terrorism at all or made scant references. But the subject was covered at length in the general debate. The ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad ben Khalifah, did not mention terrorism once (and I thank him for not meeting Sharon as expected by the Israeli press). President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon took a similar position at the summit delivering a safe statement but was in a fighting mood at the general debate delivering a comprehensive speech. Sheikh Salman ben Hamad, the Bahraini crown prince, spoke carefully at the summit but the other Bahraini speech at the following General Assembly debate, delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed ben Mubarak, covered all the political points of interest to the Arabs.Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohammed Abu el Ghait offered three points: One side must not impose its will or social standards on others, economic assistance must not be employed as a means of pressure, and force and occupation must not be used in settling disputes among nations.The Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa offered three points of his own: reforming international politics and reforming domestic policies are two sides of the same coin so a country cannot be asked to be democratic when there is no democracy in relations among nations, reform must be achieved through consensus not coercion, and reform must be general and not concentrating on one side while ignoring the other.The U.N. summit was convened to address certain problems among which fighting poverty remains the most important. The Millennium summit had suggested that rich nations allocate 0.5 per cent of their GNP to help the poor nations, rising to 0.7 between 2010 and 2015. The European Union has already committed itself to such a percentage but the U.S., the richest country in the world, only gives 0.16 per cent in foreign aid. This paltry figure would be halved when we consider that almost half of the U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel which enjoys a Western European level of income.I would like to compare U.S. aid with that of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait:- Prince Sultan said that over the last three decades his country offered 4 per cent of its income in aid to poor countries. I am not a mathematician but this is over 20 times more than the U.S. without considering the aid to Israel. Saudi Arabia has already scrapped six billion dollars in poor country debts.- Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed said that the Kuwait Economic Development Fund has already offered poor countries 12 billion dollars in aid or about twice the rate suggested by the Millennium Summit. And he promised more aid in the coming years.I know for fact that Saudi and Kuwaiti aid to the Palestinians has been the most effective. The Saudis always pay on time and the Kuwaitis don't pay at all but ask for projects that the Palestinains need and build them themselves, thus avoiding any waste or corruption. I heard this from both Yasser Arafat and Mahmdoud Abbas, and President Abbas is there to confirm or refute my information.Two final thoughts. One is that I have heard that Turkey has advised Pakistan to benefit from the Israeli influence with the U.S. the way India did and this may explain the suspicious high level talks between President Musharraf and the Israelis. The second is that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedi Nejad has told Arab leaders that he will not play the game of Arab vs Persian or Sunni vs Shia as enemies of the Arabs and Muslims want. Let's hope so.