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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Sat: Literary Wars
Talabani Retracts Earlier Statements Pronouncing the Algiers Treaty Null
By AMER MOHSEN 12/28/2007 5:06 PM ET
Kull al-'Iraq
Kull al-'Iraq
Amid the security and political developments in Iraq, a different kind of war is currently pitting two major figures in the Arab media: Fakhry Kareem, owner and editor-in-chief of al-Mada is suing Samah Idris, owner and editor of al-Adab magazine, one of the oldest Arab cultural journals.

The story began when Idris published an article last May entitled “the critique of ‘critical’ thought,” in which he attacked a group of Arab intellectuals who used to belong to the political left and who – according to Idris - have shifted political camps and are currently supporting dictatorial Arab governments and American policies in the region. Idris noted that this cohort of intellectuals have adopted a “selective” mode of critical reasoning, condemning Saddam’s regime and authoritarianism while acquiescing to pro-American Arab regimes and supporting US wars in the Middle East.

The article was published following “al-Mada’s Cultural Week,” which was held in Iraqi Kurdistan under the sponsorship of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Idris noted that the intellectuals and journalists who attended the conference, many of whom claim to be supporters of democracy and liberalism, fell short of investigating the problematic histories of the Iraqi President and the conference organizer, Fakhry Kareem. Idris then went on to recount Talabani’s past alliances with Saddam Husain and his involvement in a bitter Kurdish-Kurdish civil war against his then rival, Mas'ud al-Barazani, and – speaking of Kareem – hinted at the “lost” assets of the Iraqi Communist Party and its publications: al-Nahj Magazine and al-Mada’s publishing house.

Kareem is a long-time communist activist, and remains a leading figure in the “pro-American” wing of the Iraqi Communist Party, even though he clearly is no longer a Marxist. Kareem is also known as a close friend and advisor of Jalal Talabani, who also started his political life as a Marxist revolutionary. Idris, on the other hand, edits al-Adab, founded by his father in the 1950s and reputed as the magazine of Arab Nationalist intellectuals, even though the publication acquired a more pronounced leftist slant under the direction of Idris the son.

While Kareem’s newspaper, al-Mada, avoided hinting at the feud and the legal case, other Arab newspapers are reporting and commenting on the affair. Pierre Abi Sa’b, cultural editor of the Lebanese al-Akhbar, penned an article entitled “the lost honor of Fakhry Kareem” (an allusion to “the Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” – a novel by the German writer Heinrich Boll) in which he argued that Kareem, as a public political and media figure should expect to be “attacked, criticized and accused,” and that “it is his right to respond, defending his history and ideas ... but resorting to the courts ... is an initiative that aims at muting debate over important and existential issues.”

In other news, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has apparently denied earlier statements in which he announced that the 1975 Algiers treaty was considered "null and void" by the Iraqi government, a proclamation that elicited angry statements by Iranian officials.

According to Talabani’s office, the al-Hayat reporter who interviewed the Iraqi President “misunderstood” Talabani’s words, who allegedly spoke of canceling the treaty under specific conditions.

Talabani’s proclamation had also brought upon him the fury of his allies among the pro-Iranian Shi’a parties. According to al-Hayat, a “source” in the prime minister’s office stated that government was “surprised” by Talabani’s position vis-à-vis the treaty that demarcates the Iranian-Iraqi borders; adding that the topic was not discussed by Talabani and the government prior to the President’s announcement.

Meanwhile, Kull al-‘Iraq reported that, following a suicide bombing in Biji targeting the Police and the pro-government Awakening militia two days ago, the Iraqi Minister of Interior, Jawad al-Bulani, has issued an order to relieve Biji’s Police chief from his duties and “submit him to an investigation.” The Minister also ordered the arrest of the entire security detail of the Awakening post that was attacked.

Also in Kull al-‘Iraq, the paper said that, according to an official in the South Korean Ministry of Energy, the Iraqi government has threatened to cut Iraqi oil shipments to Korea if Korean companies do not cease their oil operations in the Kurdistan Region.

For the last months, the Kurdistan Regional Government has been involved in a political dispute with the central government and the Oil Ministry, who claim that the KRG’s contracts with foreign oil companies to exploit oil resources in the Region are illegal, because they were effectuated without the knowledge and approval of the central government.

Lastly, al-Hayat reported that the “general pardon law” has finally been approved by the Iraqi government, and that thousands of imprisoned Iraqis will be released once the parliament passes the law project. The law is mostly geared towards thousands of Iraqi prisoners who have been arrested, placed in Iraqi and US detention centers, but not indicted or formally charged.


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