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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Sun: Campaigning on State-Run News
Halabja Trial on TV
By DANIEL W. SMITH 12/21/2008 11:51 PM ET
On Sunday night, government-sponsored al-Iraqiya basically dropped news, in favor of political campaigning. There were no politics, except about al-Maliki’s achievements. There were no statements, except self-congratulatory ones by al-Maliki. According to the channel’s news directors, the big scoops today were that more development has been planned, and that the Iraq/Japan relationship is going well.

Kurdish-backed Al-Huriya broadcast the trial, currently going on, of those accused of being responsible for the gassing of Kurds in Halabja. The names include former Defense Minister Sultan Hashim and “Chemical Ali” Majid.

Several stations reported on the death of an American soldier in Iraq who the US military is saying died in a non-combat related accident. Vehemently anti-occupation Al-Rafadin reported that U.S. officials “admitted” that one of its soldiers was killed, and didn’t mention anything about it being in an accident, giving the impression that it happened in battle. They gave top coverage to a former British commander who said that he holds the U.S. accountable for mistakes and violence for the past five yeas in Iraq. Also, they point up the fact that the arrested officials from the Interior Ministry, were still being held. Shoe-thrower al-Zaidi is said to have been tortured into making the confession that people are talking about.

Al-Baghdadiya is, obviously, reporting on the topic in any way they can think of.

American-backed Al-Hurra reported that General Casey arrived in Amara, and expressed that the security is... you guessed it... good. In Diyala, two raids yielded six suspects (two of them reportedly from al-Qaeda in Iraq) and two caches of arms and explosives. Also, they report that several unnamed MP’s expressed that the practice of tearing down the political posters which decorate walls and concrete barriers across the country is “uncivil and confusing for the voters.”

Other big stories are...

Parliament speaker Mashhadani’s quitting his post in a huff and then changing his mind is being talked about. Those who do not like him are saying he should stick with it, including one MP who has started a petition to keep him from returning.

Security forces warned people not to use election-related sectarian slogans, on the way to the upcoming Shi’a pilgrimage, and announced that they will be closing roads to vehicular traffic, leaving them available for the nearly 7,000 pedestrians who are expected to make the walk.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is in Turkey, meeting with Turkish leader Gül. The Egyptian Embassy is set to open back up “soon”.

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