Arab Reaction to the ISG Report
The USG Open Source Center translates and analyzes the pan-Arab media on the Baker-Hamilton report:
‘ FYI — Pan-Arab Media Treatment of Baker-Hamilton Study Group Report on Iraq
Middle East — OSC Report
Wednesday, December 6, 2006 T19:38:34Z
Doha Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic, independent television station financed by the Qatari Government, and Dubai Al-Arabiyah Television, an independent television station financed by Arab businessmen, from 1400 GMT to 2000 GMT on 6 December have been observed to highlight the Baker-Hamilton report and relevant reactions as follows:
Al-Jazirah Television at 1602 GMT on 6 December begins a live coverage from Washington of the announcement of the recommendations by Iraq Study Group on the US Administration’s policy in Iraq. The live relay shows Lee Hamilton and James Baker, co-chairmen of the committee, and other members of the committee making statements to the press, with A-Jazirah Television providing simultaneous translation into Arabic. The live relay ends at 1639 GMT.
At 1640 GMT, Al-Jazirah Television anchorman Hasan Jammul in Doha studios conducts a live satellite interview with Wajd Waqfi, Al-Jazirah Television correspondent in Washington, who reads part of the committee’s findings.
At 1624 GMT, Al-Jazirah anchorman Hasan Jammul conducts a live satellite interview with Dr Imad Fawzi al-Shu’aybi, director of the Center for Strategic Data and Studies, in Damascus.
Asked about the Syrian stand toward the recommendation of the Baker-Hamilton report to hold dialogue with Iran and Syria, Al-Shu’aybi says that based on his experience with and knowledge of the US strategic thinking, “the Americans now know that they should start talking to Syria. They admit, according to what James Baker and Hamilton said in the press conference, that there can be no solution without dialogue with Syria and Iran.”
Commenting on Baker’s remarks to the effect that Syria will accept dialogue with the United States and might also accept to meet US demands in return for this dialogue, Al-Shu’aybi says: “I agree with you on the first part. Syria will accept dialogue because it calls for dialogue. But definitely, and in my opinion and based on my knowledge of the Syrian policy, I can say that the Syrians will never accept the policy of concessions and demands. Since the fall of Baghdad, Syria has been facing demands and experienced the so-called 2005 adversity. Yet, it did not respond to demands since they were a continuous series of concessions, which never stopped.”
At 1647 GMT, Hasan Jammul conducts a live satellite interview with Dr Hasan Kuni, a former Turkish national security adviser, in Istanbul. Kuni speaks in English with simultaneous translation into Arabic. Asked about Baker-Hamilton committee’s recommendation for a dialogue with Iraq neighbors to arrive at a security solution, Dr Kuni says that this recommendation is “a little bit late.” He says that “Turkey, in order to resolve the northern Iraq problem, has already started talking to Syria and Iraq almost one year ago. The Americans and the Israeli circles in Washington were blaming Prime Minister Erdogan for making contacts with the Syrians and the Iranians. Now, a year later, they tell us they want to do the same. Whether it is late or early, this is a good start, if they really want to resolve problems on the regional level. They should start doing that now.”
At 1649 GMT, Jammul conducts a live satellite interview with Urayb al-Rantawi, director of Jerusalem Center for Studies, in Amman. Asked about Baker-Hamilton recommendations which say that the Iraqi Government should assume a bigger responsibility to end violence and whether these recommendations constitute some sort of pressure on the Iraqi Government, Al-Rantawi says: “Undoubtedly, there is a message in this report to Al-Maliki Government or any other Iraqi government that may be formed in the future.”
“However, to blame the Iraqi governments, which were formed after the occupation, for the deterioration of the conditions in Iraq,” Al-Rantawi adds, “is, I believe, another manifestation of the US failure in Iraq. As stated, the report used the expression success instead of victory, but success is a soft diplomatic expression for the US failure in Iraq. The United States is looking for scapegoats to blame for the failure of its scheme in Iraq.”
Al-Rantawi says that the Baker-Hamilton report notes that the Shiite Badr and Al-Sadr militias are committing “murder against civilians.” He adds: “These militias are represented in this government, and Al-Maliki government continues to be in office with the parliamentary majority of these militias. They are part of the problem, and not part of the solution. It is time to put things right and to clarify matters, and I believe that Baker-Hamilton report has covered a good distance on that road.”
At 1652 GMT, Jammul interviews live via satellite from Washington David Newton, a former US ambassador to Iraq. Newton, speaking in English with simultaneous translation into Arabic, says that the “the aim of the report is to arrive at a strategy for the future and not to blame this or that party.” Newton says that other US agencies are now conducting other studies on the situation in Iraq.
At 1654 GMT, Al-Jazirah TV interviews via satellite from London Dr Ghassan al-Atiyah, director of the Iraqi Institute for Development and Democracy. He says that “the Baker-Hamilton report has succeeded to a large extent in portraying the crisis in Iraq,” adding that the commission should have put forward “practical steps” to tackle the points raised in the report. He notes that national reconciliation in Iraq can be achieved through a dialogue in which all Iraqi sects participate.
At 1658 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviews again Hasan Kuni. Asked if the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s recommendations regarding the Iraqi security file will help prevent a civil war in Iraq, Kuni notes that the US forces plan to remain in Iraq until 2008 and “after that they will train the Iraqi forces to fight against other Iraqis. This will not solve any problem in Iraq and there will be more fighting and loss of lives.”
At 1701 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviews via satellite from Tehran Muhammad Ali Muhtadi, expert at the Middle East Studies Center. Commenting on the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s recommendation that calls on the United States to hold a dialogue with Iran to settle the Iraqi crisis, Muhtadi notes that the Iranian role in the region cannot be ignored, adding that “no one in Iran is against dialogue, in principle. However, there is much skepticism in Tehran regarding the United States’ credibility and intentions as it announces something and does something else. I fear that the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s report is part of a new US scenario in the region to rid of the Iraqi crisis.”
At 1703 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviews again David Newton. Asked if the Democratic members of the Baker-Hamilton Commission showed more enthusiasm for holding dialogue with Iran and Syria than the Republicans, Newton says: “Yes. This is not a strange thing because the Republicans in the commission are more sympathetic with the President’s efforts and have no intention to embarrass him.” He says that the US training of Iraqi soldiers to assume security command in Iraq will be useless if these soldiers “continue to behave on behalf of one side or another” after they finish their training.
At 1704 GMT, Urayb al-Rantawi is interviewed again. Asked if it possible for the US Administration to adopt a recommendation by the Baker-Hamilton Commission calling for “some sort of punishment” for the Iraqi Government if it fails to control the security situation in Iraq, Al-Rantawi says that the Iraqi Government has already failed in maintaining security in Iraq, wondering if the United State is ready to engage in a serious dialogue with Iran and Syrian in a bid to settle the Iraqi security crisis.
At 1708 GMT, Al-Jazirah conducts a telephone interview with Salih al-Fayyad, member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives for the Unified Iraqi Coalition, from Baghdad.
Asked if the Baker-Hamilton report highlighted real problems facing Iraq, Al-Fayyad says that the Iraqis welcome all efforts that are in line with the Iraqi cause.
Dubai Al-Arabiyah Channel in Arabic leads its 1500 GMT newscast with a report on Bush’s meeting with members of the Iraq study group “which handed him its report on means of resolving the Iraqi crisis”. The report cites Bush referring to the report as “a tough assessment” and that he will deal with it “very seriously”. The video report shows Bush giving statements in reaction to the report. Following this factual report, Al-Arabiyah anchor notes that the Hamilton report “includes 79 non-binding recommendation.” The station interviews its correspondent in Washington who says that Bush termed the report as tough because “it includes conditions which he dislikes like” like communicating with Iran and Syria. He adds that this report “included painful points to President Bush and, at the same time, Bush cannot resist all these points, especially since they gained the consensus of the Republicans and democrats.” He adds that “the American people are fed-up with this issue (Iraq) and want to see an end to it not to mention that the democrats and Republicans don’t want this issue to be a subject of debate in the 2008 election campaigns.”
The station interrupts its newscast at 1602 GMT to carry live the news conference by the Baker-Hamilton Committee. As the live relay continues, the station highlights statements made in the news conference as screen captions like the following:
“The cost of the war on Iraq has reached $350 billion.”
“Iran and Syria have big influence in the region”
“If we don’t talk with the Iranians, then we will not achieve the required success”
“The situation in Iraq is very serious and the mission is very difficult”
Al-Arabiyah ends its live relay of the news conference at 1639.
At 1643 GMT, Al-Arabiyah carries a five-minute telephone interview with Iraqi Deputy Iyad Jamal al-Din, in Damascus; followed by an interview, via satellite, with Al-Arabiyah’s adviser on US affairs, Hisham Milhim, in Washington.
Commenting on the Baker-Hamilton report, Jamal al-Din says that “the report reveals an inaccurate understanding of the position of the Iraqi Government. The problem of the Iraqi Government is that it is called a national unity government, but it does not truly express Iraqi national unity which is something tangible.” He adds “insisting on achieving security progress by the Iraqi Government means increasing the division in Iraq. The problem in Iraq is a political one. Unless we form a real national unity government, then any support or progress by the government might or will definitely increase the division in Iraq.”
Commenting on the report, Milhim argues that ” if most or the main parts of these recommendations are adopted, then this will lead to a drastic change in the current US position on Iraq and will make President Bush give up a big part of his current strategy in Iraq.”
Milhim maintains that the most important recommendations call on the United States to embark on an “immediate political and diplomatic initiative that involves all of Iraq’s neighbors to produce an international formula for holding dialogue with Iran and Syria. He adds that the report also “casts doubts on Iran’s readiness for a serious dialogue with the United States on Iraq.”
He adds that the Iraqi political process followed “sacred dates” which have now placed the Americans and Iraqis in “a predicament”. He argues that the political process is done, but building state institutions has not been completed yet. He maintains that “there is a vacuum in state institutions. Even the army and the police have not been built in a clear form.” He concludes by calling for a regional conference “to help Iraqis correct and reinstate balance to the political process which is no longer exists in Iraq.” He notes that unless this happen, then ” we shall witness very serious days.”
Al-Arabiyah leads its 1700 GMT newscast with a factual report on the Hamilton-Baker report followed by a telephone interview wi th Jaw ad al-Hindawi, ambassador at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. Commenting on the report, he says that “the report included recommendations for the US Administration and not decisions. This administration is till in the stage of studying, analyzing, and meeting in order to set a new strategy in Iraq. The administration has realized at a late stage many basic facts to emerge from the conflict in Iraq and the region. Among these facts is failure of the military option and the need to return to diplomacy, international legitimacy, and international cooperation to solve conflicts.” The second fact is the need to support the Iraqi government politically and militarily. The third fact is supporting Iraqi national dialogue on joint interest. The fourth fact is dealing positively with regional conflicts like the Arab-Israeli conflict. ‘