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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Thu: Problematic Executions
'Amr Musa in Baghdad, Lobbies for Constitutional Amendments
By AMER MOHSEN 03/18/2009 5:10 PM ET
According to Iraqi and Arab papers, Maliki’s government is urging the Presidency to approve execution orders issued by the Supreme Criminal Court against ex-Ba'thi officials. Pan-Arab al-Hayat relayed that government spokesman 'Ali al-Dabbagh announced that the government has “pled” with the council of the Presidency to sign the execution sentences of “the criminals,” adding that the Iraqi law mandates that such rulings be carried out within a month of their issuance.

The rulings were pronounced in June 2007; several officials of the former regime were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Anfal campaign against the Kurdish regions (1988-1989.) The individuals in question include 'Ali Hasan Al-Majeed (AKA “Chemical Ali,”) but also Sultan Hashim, the ex-Defense Minister and Husain Rasheed, the assistant chief-of-staff of the Iraqi Army at the time.

While few voices have been raised in defense of 'Ali Hasan al-Majeed, Sultan Hashim found many vocal advocates who claim that he was unjustly lumped with the leadership of the former regime and that the ex-General (a “war hero” of the Iraqi Army during the Iran war) was a mere “professional” soldier executing the orders of his superiors. These protests (in addition to the fiascos accompanying previous executions) have postponed the carrying out of the sentences for over two years, with President Talabani declining to sign the order.

Az-Zaman’s coverage provides an example of Hashim’s defenders. The paper referred to the General as a “distinguished Iraqi patriotic military character,” discussing Maliki’s calls for the carrying out of the execution as being specifically directed against Hashim – the paper did not mention any of the other convicts, and printed a large photo of Hashim on the front page. Az-Zaman also referred to the story of Hashim’s capture following the US invasion. The General reportedly handed himself over peacefully to the commander of the Mosul area at the time, General Petraeus, who allegedly promised that his life would be safe. The paper noted that Sultan Hashim gave himself up willingly “with the understanding that he is a professional soldier, not a politician.”

Meanwhile, Saudi-funded al-Sharq al-Awsat focused on debates surrounding the appointment of Christopher Hill as new Baghdad Ambassador; the story’s headline went: “Clinton: our new Ambassador in Baghdad does not have experience, nor does he know Arabic, but we will support him with advisers.” The quasi-sarcastic headline naturally contradicts the position of the US Secretary of State who, according to the same story, called both accusations “unjustified and unfounded,” but may echo the feelings of paper’s editors and sponsors.

In other news, the visit of Arab League Secretary 'Amr Musa to Baghdad may signal developments on the “national reconciliation” front. For the last years, the Arab League has attempted to play the role of mediator between the government and its (armed or exiled) opposition, proposing the holding of an Iraqi national conference under the sponsorship of the Arab League. The government, however, insisted that it can only negotiate “within the bounds of the constitution,” which prevents any dealings with the (banned) Ba'th Party. In his current visit, Musa is demanding amendments to the constitution that would soften the policies against ex-Ba'this, which he considered an “indispensable condition” for “reconciliation.”

According to Az-Zaman, Musa met with a wide range of Iraqi leaders (including Premier Maliki, President Talabani, 'Ammar al-Hakeem, Sunni politician Salih al-Mutlaq, in addition to Turkoman and Christian leaders) to promote his proposed constitutional amendments. On the other hand, Musa stated, Iraqi leaders demanded that Iraq’s debts (especially those imposed by the UN Security Council after the Kuwait War) be canceled or reduced. This demand clearly concerns Kuwait, which was allotted large sums in “war reparations” by the Security Council, and who refuses to forgive or reduce the debt. Since the 1990s, a portion of Iraq’s oil proceeds is automatically deducted by the Security Council to service these debts.


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