Saddam to Hang;
Shiites, Kurds Celebrate
Some Sunnis Protest
The Daily Telegraph reports that the death verdict against Saddam Hussein announced Sunday has sharpened further Iraq’s already parlous ethnic tensions. Shiites in Sadr City, once viciously repressed by Saddam, erupted in celebrations of joy, including celebratory fire. NBC news is reporting some protests by Sunnis in the capital.
Al-Zaman/Reuters reports that when the verdict was read in court, Saddam shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great!) and “Long live the Muslim nation!” (`Ashat al-ummah!) As a secular Arab nationalist, Saddam at one point kept out of the Iraqi constitution any mention of Islam, but since the Gulf War he has mugged for the camera with such slogans. They may have some resonances in Sunni Arab regions, though, as well as in the Muslim world more generally.
Saddam’s defense team said that the court was constituted under an American military occupation and therefore could not be impartial, and that the verdict made a mockery of justice.
They also said, according to NBC, that the verdict was timed by the Bush administration in a desperate attempt to influence the US midterm elections. AP reports that Islamist activists around the world are critical of the verdict and also say it was timed cynically.
In other Sunni Arab areas, the Telegraph says, many rejected the legitimacy of the verdict:
‘ “The hanging of the former Iraqi president is part of an American scheme. He was a symbol of liberation in Iraq,” declared Dr Muzahim Allawi, a university professor, in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit.
The theme of foreign interference in the verdict was a constant one, with many accusing the United States and its remaining 150,000 troops in Iraq of persecuting the former strongman for its own ends.
“The sentence is pre-prepared in Washington and Tel Aviv,” spat civil servant Qusay Addai, bitterly.
Student Qasim Nayif agreed: “The Americans are responsible for the judgement which certainly pleased (US President George W.) Bush and (former Israeli premier Ariel) Sharon.” ‘
Qasim Nayif isn’t up on the latest Israeli political news, obviously.
Paul Reynolds of the BBC reviews the pros and cons of the way the trial was conducted. An Amnesty International official said:
‘ He listed his group’s concerns about the trials.
“The independence and impartiality of the court was impugned. There was political interference. The first judge resigned, the second was barred for being a former member of the Baath party, the only political entity at the time, and the third judge had relatives who were killed in Halabje [where Kurds were gassed by Saddam Hussein’s forces].
“The security of the court was also impossible to keep. Three defence lawyers were murdered. Saddam himself had no access to legal advice for a year. There were also problems with the defence’s ability to function.” ‘
My op-ed, , “Breaking Iraq Apart, is in the Mercury News Perspectives section on Sunday. Excerpt:
‘ The vagueness and, frankly, incoherence of some of the comments made about splitting up Iraq by politicians on the stump suggests that they are using the idea merely as an election-season mantra. They are putting it forward as an exit strategy. Divide the place up and get out, they say, hoping that if the Iraqis could not live with one another peacefully inside one country, they will be able to do so once they are separated.
Historically, partition has not always brought peace. The partition of Germany by the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II provoked a nuclear standoff and nail-biting tensions for 40 years. The British Empire in its waning days agreed in 1947 to partition colonial India into the nations of India and Pakistan, which went on to fight several wars and now brandish nuclear weapons at one another. The partition of Palestine in 1948 set the stage for six Arab-Israeli wars.
The purely American context of these deliberations about the fate of a whole Middle Eastern nation seems somewhat detached from reality. In Iraq itself, the major proponent of new regional confederacies is Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the largest bloc in parliament. He and his allies wish to see eight or nine largely Shiite provinces join together in a super-province or regional confederacy.
Hakim is widely seen as close to Iran, and it is believed that Iran supports the idea of a Shiite regional government. Hakim recently rammed through parliament a law specifying the legal mechanisms for establishing such a confederacy. The Sunni Arab bloc boycotted the vote. Should not Americans be suspicious of a plan so warmly supported by Tehran?’