Thursday, May 29, 2008

Our Arab Brothers

Iraq calls for Saddam era debts to be scrapped

Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has again called on neighbouring countries to cancel debt and compensation payments that date from Saddam Hussein's regime.

He told a conference in Stockholm to mark the first anniversary of the International Compact with Iraq, a five-year economic and political reform package, that the payments were holding back the rebuilding programme.

Iraq owes at least US$67bn (£33.8bn) in foreign debts, mostly to its Arab neighbours such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Update - this is not surprising: Arab Nations Fail to Forgive Iraq’s Debts

Published: May 30, 2008

UPPLANDS VASBY, Sweden (AP) — A United Nations conference on Iraq ended Thursday with a declaration encouraging debt forgiveness, but without commitments from Iraq’s biggest creditors.

Iraq has at least $67 billion in foreign debt — most of it from loans by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar during Saddam Hussein’s rule. The United Nations Compensation Commission says that separately, $28 billion remains to be paid for Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iraq sets aside 5 percent of its oil revenue to meet the compensation claims.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Introducing Iraqi Patriots

Of course I have known many Iraqis in my life, and most of them have loved their country, they hated to leave their country, and they hated to see Iraq destroyed and dragged down like it has been for the last few decades. All of them were saddened by Iraq's inability to free itself from the stranglehold of dictatorship, and were even more saddened by Iraq's civil war. But few of them work diligently, without pay, to help Iraq succeed. Few of them these days are truly non-sectarian and at the same time can acknowledge the criminal past of Saddam Hussein's regime. These few are the Iraqi patriots, the Iraqis who want Iraq to succeed as a multi-ethnic multi-sect nation with real freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Iraqi patriots are unwilling to see another dictator rule Iraq, they recognize the immense flaws in the current government in Baghdad, and they strive for change. One of these people, these Iraqi patriots, is my father, Dr. Muhammad Ali Zainy. Many know of him already, as I have quoted him many times on my blog. My father does not miss Saddam, but he does not care for the current system of government either.

In 2003, my father was invited by the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council (a US Administration sponsored organization) to join teams of professional Iraqi expatriates to oversee Iraq's reconstruction. He arrived in Baghdad two weeks after the fall of the regime as a CPA oil advisor, but after working for four months on a plan for oil industry reconstruction, he resigned out of deep disappointment. Disbanding the Iraqi army and police and creating a serious security vacuum in the country, allowing looting and destruction all over the place, and the consequent spread of rampant crime, corruption and the ensuing lack of security were intolerable to him. After resigning he returned to the UK to continue his work with the Center for Global Energy Studies. Always an idealist, my father was gravely disappointed by the state of Iraq in 2003, and it was then when he visited the famed (now abandoned) Oil Club in Baghdad, where he remembered with great sadness his friend Mun'im el Sammarie. His disappointment only grew in the following five years. In 2005 he was offered the job of oil minister in a pending cabinet reshuffle of the Jafary government, but he declined the offer. He returned to Baghdad in October 2005 with a group of Iraqi technocrats who called themselves "Pioneers for Reconstruction and Development" to run for parliament. They won no seats, as the political environment at that time was strongly polarized between Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds. He returned, dejected again, but he would not give up. He continued to be active in Iraqi politics in London, and he has spearheaded the effort to expose the serious flaws in the draft Iraqi oil law - the flaws in the oil law would result in the mismanagement of Iraq's oil wealth and may eventually lead to Iraq's disintegration. He is thus helping to guide the Iraqi parliament in passing an oil law that will be fair to Iraq and safeguard Iraq's only remaining assets.

My father plans to return to Iraq in hopes of helping it become more peaceful, more prosperous, and more secular. My father is a pious Muslim, but he strongly believes that religion should be kept out of politics. In February he met Dr. Mowafak al Rubaie in an Iraqi embassy reception in London, where they exchanged views respectfully. My father handed Rubaie an article about the draft oil law, and a few days later Rubaie sent my father a letter of thanks. This led to an exchange of emails between these two Iraqis, who started in the same place in 2003, but ended up taking very different directions. Rubaie, as you probably know, is Iraq's National Security Adviser. My father shared with me the email exchange with Dr. Rubaie, and asked me if I would like to post the letters. I convinced him to start his own blog and publish it there. He said he doesn't have time, but after I showed him how easy it is, he started a blog and called it Iraqi Patriots. He published his email exchange with Dr. Rubaie, and in one email my father wrote:

"I was very happy indeed when I recently heard in the news that you and Deputy Prime Minister Berhem Salih went to Basrah to reclaim the vital Iraqi port of "Um Qasr" from the hands of the controlling militias, by deploying the Iraqi army to take over. This was a step long overdue, since how can a country be run properly when, at the same time, there are militias - sometimes allied with gangs of crime engaged in stealing, kidnapping and killing - who have practically stripped the elected government of its power to rule, and spread havoc in the cities of Iraq, particularly in Basrah (Iraq's economic capital), and put the Iraqi citizens' lives and their property in constant danger?"

Keep in mind my father was born to Shi'i parents, but he has never been sectarian. He loves and respects all Iraqis regardless of sect, religion, creed or ethnic origin. I asked him once who he'd rather see in charge in Iraq - Muqtada al Sadr or Saddam Hussein. He said neither! He said "I simply cannot live with a dictatorship, nor can I live with a theocracy". There are a few Iraqi patriots who will lead Iraq to greatness. One of those patriots is Dr. Muhammad Ali Zainy.

"I have forgotten Iraq..."

Over the weekend I met my Iraqi friend Z (half Shi’i half Sunni), whose family fled Iraq in 1998 because her father, a lawyer, feared that he would be executed by Saddam's regime because he and his brother were involved in exposing Saddam's crimes against the Iraqi people. Yesterday Z told me about an experience she had as a junior high school student in Baghdad that reminded me how the Baath party used fear to intimidate ordinary Iraqis. One day Z got into an argument with a girl named Rayaheen, who was jealous of Z, apparently because Z was popular with other girls. Rayaheen confronted Z and asked her what her family has accomplished in Iraq – she said that Z’s uncle was widely considered to be a lunatic. Z’s uncle was in fact quite ill and suffering from a mental illness. Z responded by telling Rayaheen that she should do her own research and discover the history of Z’s family. Being opinionated and blunt as a young girl, Z talked to Rayaheen after a few days and asked her if she had thought more about what she said, and reminded Rayaheen that she also had relatives who were considered to be low class. Rayaheen was shocked by the Z’s accusation. The next day, Z was told by a teacher to report to the school principal. At the principal’s office was Rayaheen and her mother, who condescendingly criticized Z and told her that Rayaheen’s father is a member of the Mukhabarat, and that he could have Z’s entire family put in jail for years. Z was of course frightened by this, so she apologized. After Rayaheen and her mother left the office, the principal, also a Baathist (there were no non-Baathist school principals) asked Z what she had done, and asked her if she realized that the Mukhabarat could have her entire family killed. Z said that if this happened, almighty God would know who is wrong and who is right, and that justice would be served in any case. Needless to say, Z and her family were quite lucky to have survived this encounter unscathed.

In 2006, Z and her family visited Amman to meet some relatives. While shopping, she ran into Rayaheen, who was wearing dark Gucci sunglasses and designer clothing. Z asked Rayaheen if she remembered her. Rayaheen said that Z looked familiar, and finally remembered who she was when Z revealed her last name. They were civil with each other. Z asked Rayahan what happened in Iraq, why she left. Rayaheen said “I have forgotten Iraq, and will never return.”

Before I heard this story, I read Zeyad’s post titled "Only 4 per cent of Iraqis in Syria plan to return home". I wonder why most Iraqis in Syria do not plan to return home. Is it because the Baathi refugees no longer dominate Iraq? I wonder if a few of those Baathi refugees in Syria helped suicide bombers enter Iraq via Damascus. Are we supposed to feel sorry for them?

Muqtada's Letter to Saddam

This is a 1999 letter from Muqtada al Sadr to Saddam Hussein. After Muqtada's brothers and father were murdered by Saddam's henchmen, Muqtada wrote a letter to Saddam, praising him and thanking him for his condolences! He also hoped that the same (murder) would not happen to Saddam's family. Probably Muqtada was afraid for his own life. It's interesting that 9 years ago Muqtada was so afraid of Saddam, the murderer of his father and brothers, and yet now he fights the Americans, the people who overthrew Saddam, and the new Iraqi government.

Thank you Ammu for the forward!

Monday, May 19, 2008

"It's a criminal web...and the US is involved"

Many of you know already that BogIraq was murdered on April 11 in Baghdad while meeting with somebody to discuss alleged corruption involving USAID. I was shocked to read the news. BlogIraq and I did not always agree, but he was always friendly with me. He was a great writer, an Iraqi patriot who wanted Iraq to succeed, but was unwilling to accept corruption in Baghdad. So he sought to expose it, and he was killed for it. It is another sad chapter in the history of Iraq. Allah Yuruhma.

The day after I learned about BlogIraq's death, my father, who was also shocked and dismayed to read about BlogIraq's death, shared with me this 2006 article, which reminded me again of BlogIraq: IRAQ: USAID Provides Adviser to Iraq Government on Oil Law

"At the request of the U.S. State Department, the agency is providing a petroleum advisor to Iraq from February to June through its contract with BearingPoint, USAID spokesman David Snider told Dow Jones Newswires in an e-mail."

My father walked away from the computer and said "it's a criminal web." I said "and the US is involved." Damn, I can't believe I just said that, I thought. Could it be true? But then I thought more about it, and I realized the US has been involved for decades, and many crimes have been committed in the last 30 years with the knowledge of the US government.

Angry and Ignorant

The angry professor in California says, without elaborating: "the two people most responsible for sectarian conflict in the Middle East are the Saudi King and the Grand (not at all) Ayatullah, Sistani."

I've written a lot about Sistani and quoted him many times on my blog, and while I disagree with his fundamentalist views, especially with regard to his views on homosexuality, I do not understand how Sistani has been responsible for sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Sistani has repeatedly appealed for unity and peace between Sunni Arabs and Shia.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Permanent Infidel Presence in Persian Gulf

Over the weekend my father and I were talking about the incredible stupidity and hypocrisy of Al Qaeda and other "resistance" groups who murder foreigners in Iraq and Iraqis who work with foreigners. I told him that AQI murders Iraqis who work with Americans, but apparently it's OK for Al Qaeda that Saudis do big business with Americans and the US CENTCOM is in Doha, Qatar. I mean we don't hear about suicide bombings in Riyadh or Doha. My father agreed and told me that it's apparently OK with Al Qaeda that France, the country that banned the hijab, has signed a deal with Abu Dhabi for a permanent French naval base there. I missed this months-old announcement and thought I should add it to the list of examples of Arab hypocrisy.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Is blogging a waste of time?

I've been blogging now for more than a year and a half, and sometimes I've wondered if blogging is a waste of time. I have been very busy lately, and I haven't even had time to read the comments. What concerns me most is comments from people in my own family, who tell me that blogging is a waste of time. My father thinks I should be spending my time on a masters degree. My cute Iraqi friend in Boston told me that I should be doing something more productive than blogging. I know that I've learned a lot from my own blog and other blogs, but sometimes I also wonder if I could be doing something better with my time.