Thursday, October 06, 2005

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.


Blogger Vladimir said...

1. What do you think about the Palestinians blowing themselves up in Baghdad and what about the Palestinians that walked in the past with Saddam’s photo’s in the streets.

2. More then 98% of the Kurds voted for independence. Kurdistan has always been there, long before the country of Iraq ever existed..

The Kurds want their Kurdish provinces back.... --> Kirkuk. Even Diyala and Mosul used to be Kurdish, but the Arabic invaders changed it.

10:03 AM  
Blogger yousaycanandwillbe said...

sorry if this is off topic but jihad are you the same jihad i met many (30) years ago...does the name maeva jolly ring a bell? pls email me if it does. if it doesnt pls disregard this post.

9:03 AM  
Blogger sanych23 said...

Arabism... Is not this like racism?

Only Kurds should reply.

11:16 AM  
Blogger The Reality Show said...


The global virus of racist Arabism has claimed/claims millions of victims, it includes:

Kurds (under Saddam or Syria), Berbers, Jews (inside Israel - the genocide campaign since the massacre in 1929 by the Mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini until today, or in the Arab world or on 'Arab street' in Europe, etc.), Africans (genocide in Sudan, oppression in Egypt, Slavery in Mauritania, etc.)...

7:36 PM  
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1:43 PM  
Anonymous Cassierezc said...

sorry if this is off topic but jihad are you the same jihad i met many (30) years ago...does the name maeva jolly ring a bell? pls email me if it does. if it doesnt pls disregard this post.

12:33 PM  

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