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1.     No Capital Punishment for Tariq Aziz

Roznama Sahafat (The Journalism Daily), Delhi

Editorial, 20 November 2010, Saturday

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said that he will not sign the order for death sentence of former Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Tariq Aziz. He said that the country should look forward as far as capital punishment is concerned. He believes that Iraq should put an end to this tradition. Not all in Iraq agree with the President on this matter, however, is refreshing news. Jalal Talabani has become a hero for the human rights activists of the world. Tariq Aziz is a catholic and was a close aid of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. He remained loyal to Saddam till the end. Tariq Aziz was also a leader of the now banned Baath party of Iraq. An Iraqi military court awarded death sentence to him on 26 October. Tariq Aziz was accused of human rights violation, mass killing and attacking the Shia religious groups in 1980. But his biggest crime was his loyalty to his leader. Tariq Aziz has been in jail since he surrendered before American troupes in April 2003 after the fall of Baghdad. The Iraqi Supreme Court found him guilty of deliberately supporting Saddam Hussein in ‘killing and human rights violation.’ He had a heart attack while in jail. Voices from several quarters around the world were raised to pardon Tariq Aziz after the court order. Many human rights organisation as well as the Vatican office of the Catholic religious leader- the Pope, European Union, Russia and other countries appealed for pardon. Jalal Talabani stated that, ‘he has sympathy for Tariq Aziz because he is an Iraqi Catholic and an old man beyond 70. I will not sign the death order.’ This gesture from the President is worth praise. Jalal Talabani is a Kurd and Kurds like Shias have always bore the brunt of Saddam regime in Iraq. Saddam government and military suppressed their peaceful freedom movement, even though Kurds are Sunni Muslims. The general perception was that Jalal Talabani would sign on order for death sentence to Tariq Aziz but he has shown great statesmanship through this announcement. He was also sensitive that Tariq Aziz belongs to the minority community in Iraq and this death punishment would undermine their future safety, which again is a noble gesture. This gives an impression that minorities in Iraq should not feel unsafe. This is a message for the countries where minorities are prosecuted. This statement from Jalal Talabani has brought a ray of hope for the entire world.

Source: Roznama Sahafat  

2.     India-UAE Relations

Roznama Siasat (The Politics Daily), Hyderabad

Editorial, 24 November 2010, Wednesday

India-UAE relations are extra ordinary. India’s goodwill in UAE has helped enhance the trade opportunities between the two countries. President Pratibha Patil’s visit will further strengthen India’s trade, security and cultural ties with UAE. The inauguration of India Islamic Centre in Abu Dhabi is a step in right direction. India has been a victim of terrorism and this aspect has got due importance in the soon to be signed security agreement between India and the UAE. Counter-terrorism and naval security will also be discussed while signing the agreement. President of the Emirate Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan received and hosted President Pratibha Patil at the Presidential Palace. This visit will strengthen the relations between the two countries. On her first visit President Pratibha Patil said that this will go a long way in enhancing the co-operation between the two countries in the field of education, science and technology and regional security. Internal security and external threats, particularly terrorist attack through sea routes, has increased the fear among Gulf countries. Countries are signing agreement to counter-extremism and terrorism. Time has come for signing an internal security agreement as proposed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram. Chidambaram has also invited his UAE counterpart to India that will further enhance the ties between the two countries. It is important to strengthen our ties to fight the terrorists. The presidential visit is also important from the point of view of trade relations. The already bulging trade relations are set to grow further. India also provides a great investment opportunity for the UAE. Food security is an important issue currently. The President also pointed this out to the UAE. Agriculture is a major part of India’s economy and the UAE was invited to invest in agricultural development. Energy security is another aspect which India is looking forward to while strengthening its ties with the UAE. Huge infrastructure development in India has necessitated the need for increase in energy supply. Railway infrastructure is also being improved. India has also got the support from the UAE on the issue of permanent membership of UNSC. The UAE has also gained importance in world politics. It provides employment to hundreds of thousands of people including around 1.75 million Indians. This was also discussed by the President and it was agreed upon that the issue of problems faced by Indians residing in the UAE would be discussed at ministerial level. Human Resource plays an important role in development and Indian workers have played a crucial role in development of the UAE. The President congratulated the Indians residing in the UAE for their achievement. India receives huge remittances from NRIs. The President acknowledged the role of migrants in development of Indian economy and promised to seriously pursue the issues faced by them. The trade delegation accompanying the President had a chance to have interaction with industry leaders from the UAE. The fast developing Indian economy would further benefit from good relations with the UAE.

Source: Roznama Siasat  

3.     New Government in Iraq - A Failure for the US

Roznama Urdu Times (The Urdu Times Daily), Mumbai

Editorial, 28 November 2010, Sunday

In world politics, great powers expect everything to occur according to their wishes and needs so that they can achieve their predefined ‘national interest.’ But things do not always go as planned. Iraq is proving something like that for the US, where after 2003 removal of Saddam regime, things are not moving in the direction as decided in Washington. The way the Shia majority community and their religious leaders have influenced the national politics in Iraq, is not as was expected by the US, Israel and Arab countries of the region. This is the reason why seven years into the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, the government formation took eight months since the March 2010 parliamentary elections. The process of government formation was in limbo due to lack of clear majority to any party or group in the 325 member National Assembly and foreign intervention for a friendly government. Even though former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi led Iraqqiya bloc won the largest number of 91 seats, but due to promiscuity with the US and Saudi Arabia, he could not gather support from any other group. The current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki led State of Law Coalition won 89 seats, but several other groups had announced their support to him. But as no group could gather the constitutionally required number of seats for government formation, no government could be formed till now. As per the agreement signed by various political leaders and groups on 11 November 2010, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani would remain President while Nouri al-Maliki would retain the Prime Ministerial post, Iraqqiya bloc leader Iyad Allawi would be the chairman of proposed Strategic Council while the speaker of the parliament would also be from his bloc. Osama al-Najafi has been elected for the post. At the end of October, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Arab League, had invited all political leaders from Iraq to Riyadh for solving the problem of government formation after Eid al-Adha. This invitation from Saudi Arabia was rejected by Nouri al-Maliki led State of Law Coalition while terming it as delayed step. He said that the Iraqi political groups would soon be able to form a national coalition government and sign an agreement in this regard. One member from Nouri al-Maliki led coalition, Sami al-Askari said that the Saudi step is not positive and that Saudi Arabia has not remained neutral towards Iraqi groups. Iraqi authorities have earlier also accused Saudi Arabia of financing terrorists in Iraq. The perception in Iraq is that the suicide bombings in Iraq are executed by Al Qaeda which follows the Saudi extremist religious ideology. Sami al-Askari further said that, if such an invitation would have come from Jordan, Syria or Turkey then it would have been accepted. However, Iyad Allawi had accepted the Saudi invitation. The US, Britain and Saudi Arabia had announced their support to Iyad Allawi for the March 2010 elections. The two major Kurdish groups had also rejected the Saudi invitation. Kurdistan Regional Government President, Massoud Barzani has played a crucial role in resolving the political crisis paving the way for government formation. In the last stage on way of agreement all major political leaders gathered at Irbil on 8 November on Barzani’s invitation, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Vice President of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Prime Ministerial candidate Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq President Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, Iraqqiya bloc leader Iyad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq and senior leader of congress party Ahmed Chalabi. At last the agreement on government formation was finalised on 11 November in Baghdad. Immediately the parliament elected Jalal Talabani as President and he took the oath of office. The President nominated Nouri al-Maliki for office of Prime Minister and asked him to form the cabinet within a period of one month. Iraqqiya leader Osama al-Najafi was elected the speaker of the parliament. The post of Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and thirty cabinet ministers are yet to be decided to complete the process of government formation. The announcement of government formation after eight months was welcomed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who termed it as a positive step forward and appealed to the Iraqi leaders for completing the process of government formation soon. He said that this agreement will benefit the people of Iraq. The Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad termed it as a victory of people of Iraq. He conveyed to Iraqi Prime Minister the Iranian wish for cooperation and enhancement of ties with Iraq. According to the experts, Iran has played a very important role in Iraq since 2003 because of its friendly relations with various groups in Iraq. During the last ten years of Saddam regime many Shia and Kurd political leaders were living in Iran. According to reports by The Washington Post the new government would not dilute the powers of Nouri al-Maliki, who along with Jalal Talabani would have a major say in all appointments. Iyad Allawi would be given the chairmanship of proposed twenty-member Strategic Council where the President and Prime Minister would also be members. Any decision would have to be endorsed by eighty percent of the members which could become a tough nut to crack for Iyad Allawi. It is important to mention here that Iyad Allawi has been advocating the inclusion of Baath party members and officials of Saddam government in the new system. This was advocated by the US and Saudi Arabia as well. However, the people of Iraq are wary of any such move due to the US and Saudi support to Saddam before 2003 and Al Qaeda terrorist attacks which are inspired by Saudi extremist religious ideology. The press briefing of White House after the government formation in Iraq was interesting, which made it clear that the US has accepted Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister out of some compulsion. It was said that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Bedin have talked with important leaders of Iraq and Obama will soon have talks with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, which makes it clear that Nouri al-Maliki is not among the preferred leader for the US. Having visited Iraq, Iran and other countries in the region several times in past decade, I have felt the hatred towards the US among the people of the region which cannot be felt here. The main reason for this is the US support and silence in Israeli suppression. Apart from that the extra ordinary human and material loss due to Iraq and Afghan wars has also caused this hatred. The US is exploiting the natural resources in the region through its dictatorial Arab governments which has compelled the local population to live a distraught life which again has done no good to America’s impression among the people. The Iraqi politics cannot be understood by undermining the political aspirations of Shia ulema of Najaf. Seventy percent of the population in the country is Shia and most of them follow Ayatollah Sistani, who has a good rapport with Kurdish and Sunni leaders. Any government formation in Iraq would be difficult without Ayatollah Sistani’s support which Nouri al-Maliki has enjoyed since the beginning. It is expected that he would be able to improve the situation in Iraq. The extremist and terrorist activities pose biggest challenge for his government. The US wish to keep Iraqi government out of Iranian influence does not seem to be fulfilled any time in near future. The people of Iran and Iraq are very warm and friendly towards each other due to religious proximity and pilgrimage. The US and Saudi Arabia along with other Western countries would not be able to do much in weakening this people to people relation. According to analysts, the US has accepted Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister due to its deteriorating economic conditions and military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. The US has failed to achieve long term oil deals and permanent military bases in Iraq since 2003. Hopefully, Nouri al-Maliki would uphold the national interest of Iraq in his second term more strongly which would be a big failure for the US in Iraq.

Author: Muhammad Ahmed Kazmi

Source: Roznama Urdu Times  

Compiled & translated by Md Muddassir Quamar

 Md Muddassir Quamar is a research student at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi  

As part of its editorial policy, the MEI@ND standardizes spelling and date formats to make the text uniformly accessible and stylistically consistent. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND.  Editor, MEI@ND: P R Kumaraswamy