Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar at each other's throats

(March 11, 2014)

Another day, and another blow-up at the BBC Arabic. And yet again, Fida Bassil was presiding and had to diplomatically wind her way around her inflamed guests.

This time around, it was Iraq versus Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Iraqi guest was late, so at first, it was just two men, one each from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and a third man who was an independent analyst. The Saudi and Qatari are friends. But they don't like Iraq, especially in light of what the Iraqi Prime Minister said recently.

The Iraqi PM is called Al-Maliki. He flatly said that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are waging a war against Iraq, because of all the young Qatari and Saudi men that cross the border into Iraq and blow themselves up. Qatar and Saudi reject this. Says the Saudi guest:
We do not support terrorism in the least. Al-Maliki is the one who's got American support, and now he's making claims against Saudi and Qatar.

It was very boring while just the men were talking.

Cue the Iraqi guest, an Iraqi lady called Ms. Hanan who is a member of the Iraqi Parliament.

 All the guests gathered either in the studio, via TV, or by phone

Fida asks her: what caused Al-Maliki to make these claims that Saudi and Qatar are waging a war?

Hanan: Hi (in a very flat tone). I'm very sorry I did not hear what happened so far, I don't know what your other guests have been talking about.

The other guests had been talking junk about Iraq, but Fida smoothed all this over: "just general background stuff, don't worry, you didn't miss much."

Hanan: today, we Iraqis are playing a price: kids, women, men, sheikhs, Muslims and non-Muslims. The people causing problems are not Iraqis.

Fida: alright, if this has been going on for a long while, then why did Al-Maliki wait till two days ago to accuse Saudi and Qatar of being behind all of these bombs?

Hanan: (getting a bit worked up) This is not the first time the government has made these accusations! We've addressed these concerns to the UN, to the Arab League, to the EU. About the Saudis, we have arrested so many Saudi men within our borders who were trying to blow themselves up. Those who say there's not cause for anger are delusional.

Fida: you're not answering, I'm asking about the indications, the evidence for what Al-Maliki is saying, and why he's saying it today. This is the first time he's said something with so much clarity, going as far as to say that Saudi and Qatar are waging a war against Iraq.

Hanan: No evidence? I just told you about all the people we've arrested. When you have people coming from another country intent on destruction, that country should be made responsible. We're talking about waves of people with foreign passports. The Iraqi has a report with the firm numbers, and no one can be doubtful of the Saudi and Qatari support underpinning all this.

Fida: Others say that even if you are arresting Saudis in Iraq, does that mean the Saudi government is behind it? Could it be those individuals are acting of their own free will?

Hanan: okay, and can we ever hear any condemnation from the Saudis about terrorism, about suicides, about explosions?

Fida: yes, they just came out with a strong condemnation two days ago.

 Fida trying to remain calm as her guests go haywire

Hanan: (about to go apoplectic) two days ago?? Just two days ago?? Why two days ago?? Was Al-Qaida created two days ago? Was Da-ash created two days ago? And Nusra was created this morning at dawn, I suppose? (Da-ash and Nusra are all terrorist groups, and I'm sure you've heard of al-qaider.) The Saudis didn't release their condemnation until they saw the problems coming to their own door, after American pressure and because of Obama's visit, and because they finally got ashamed of themselves. I welcome this condemnation but it is late! (yelling now)

Fida: let me ask my Qatari guest. Is it possible all these Saudi terrorists can be operating in Iraq without the Saudi government behind them? People say that the sheer numbers defy the argument that they're all acting on their own.

Qatari guy: Actually, we've been against terrorism all this time. People think terrorism started with September 11th, but actually it started with explosions in Riyadh (the Saudi capital) in the 1990s, and we've been working against it all this time, unlike Al-Maliki. In fact, al-Maliki is not doing anything good for Iraq.

Fida: he was elected by the Iraqi people.

Qatari guy: no, he was appointed by the court! And he is eager for fraud and corruption and impersonation and something called 'tazweer'.

Fida: People say that you try to suppress terrorism within your own borders, but you support it elsewhere.

Qatari guy: Not true! We work against terrorism inside our borders, and we also work regionally, through religious avenues. In the meantime, al-Maliki isn't doing anything for the advantage of Iraq. He is just trying to become good buddies with Iran. In fact, he is supporting terrorism by all the people he released from prison and who are now fighting in Syria.

Then the Saudi guy got to chime in.

Saudi guy: First, I'd like to thank Ms. Hanan for being here, and I would like to urge her to find a new way of expressing herself.

Fida: Mr. Saudi, everyone has a right to express themselves as they choose.

Saudi guy: I know, but she needs to calm down. Al-Maliki has failed with his own internal administration so he's trying to blame the rest of the world. Iraq needs today a government that is ... and I lost him.

Fida: alright, back to Ms. Hanan. When Al-Maliki says that Qatar and Saudi are waging a war against Iraq, why did he forget Syria? The Syrian president has said that the Syrian war is going to blow up and ruin Iraq and Lebanon. Why isn't your Prime Minister worried about the threat from that direction?

Hanan: I wish you would share the time equally between all of us.

Fida: I am.

Hanan: Listen to me! (starts asking rhetorical questions) Did Nusra start in Iraq? Did al-Qaida start in Iraq? Al-Qaida, which was armed and financed by the Gulf countries of Saudi and Qatar and ...

Fida: and where did Da-ash start?

Hanan: are you suggesting that Da-ash started in Iraq?

Fida: yes, it did.

Hanan: No, it didn't.

Fdia: listen to me, I'm trying to ask you a question.

Hanan: Listen to me! You gave your other guests plenty of time.

Fida: I'd like to ask you a question.

Hanan: No. Who put the Saudi or Qatari guest in charge of Iraq? None of you are in charge! None of you ought to interfere.

Fida: we can't get any result if we keep going this way.

Hanan: yes, we can!

Fida: Please, I need you to answer the question.

Hanan: I will commit to saying exactly what your guests are committed to saying!

Fida: okay.

Hanan: who was it who put all the money and support into terrorists, who are blowing up buses and trains in Europe and America? It was all the Saudis. The Saudis have a problem with Iraq because we are 65% Shia. Well, you're all going to have to get over it. We are Shia and that's just the way it's going to be.

(By the way, the Prime Minister al-Maliki is Shia as well. Saudi is mostly Sunni. Sunni/Shia are branches of Islam.)

Fida: alright Ms. Hanan, this is not just a place for you to air your opinions. I want you to listen to others, and answer my questions, please. You said that Saudi supports terrorists, but does that mean they're doing it in Iraq? and when you say that Iraq is 65% Shia, doesn't this contribute to the sectarian problems?

Hanan: the only people who talk about sectarian issues are the neighboring countries. Iraq is a democracy, we discuss things, and we all live together and we can solve our problems without anyone else's help. We don't want Arab interference nor Turkish. We are a rich country, we can solve things on our own. Also, if you read the recent report from Saudi, they make it obvious that they've been behind all the bombings in Iraq. The report says, not the terrorists, not the criminals, but the killers! It says, to all the killers, if you return within one month to Saudi you will be granted amnesty. Isn't this the biggest proof that the Saudis know there are thousands of people they've sent out to do mischief?

Qatari guy: it's quite clear that Ms. Hanan read the report incorrectly. Also, Qatar and Saudi are friends and united in all the principle issues. (not sure what point he was trying to make.)

Fida turns now to her independent analyst: What led to Al-Maliki making these claims now?

Analyst: I was taking a nap!

Fida: (laughs) it's clearly a hot issue!

Analyst: we have a problem in the Arab countries, and I think it's too bad that Hanan, although she talks in a good way, had to add that in Iraq, 'we are 65% Shia'. This is the sectarianism that is creating the problem and destroying ourselves and destroying Iraq as well. I hope they can stop that kind of thinking, and the Saudis, too, because who is going to Twitter, and Facebook, and online news channels, saying all sorts of nasty things about Shias? I am Sunni msyelf, but I tell you amongst my fellow Sunnis are those who say absolutely awful things. It is a known thing that they are interfering ...

I am Sunni, but I tell you the Saudis are provoking!

Fida: Does that mean they are interfering in Iraq?

Analyst: of course.

Fida: If they are doing all that, can we show all the evidence?

Analyst: Just listen to me.

Fida: is the norm that we should show evidence first, or that we make accusations first?

Analyst: Listen to me! Just a bit! (in a tone that said, "shut up, you silly little girl!")

Fida: okay.

Analyst: the evidence is the mufti of Saudi Arabia, who said he urges for a jihad outside of Saudi's borders. So there's a non-official jihad. If you're monitoring Twitter, you will see that all these muftis have suddenly disappeared. (maybe I didn't follow this right, but he was describing the evidence.) But all this does not take away that Al-Maliki has a crisis. I think he doesn't have a lot of support in the Parliament right now. His old supporters have accused him of corruption. And the Kurds have accused him of sectarianism. And so have the Sunnis. So who are Al-Maliki's friends, who is going to vote for him, who will support him in Parliament? He lost all that support himself. If he worked in an open way with the Kurds and the Sunnis and even the Shias, in a transparent way, then Iraq wouldn't have come to this crisis.

Fida: al-Maliki says that he is not sectarian, and the biggest proof is that he fought against his former Shia ally, Sadr.

Analyst: no, that's just because you still get splits in your own house. Sadr might be Shia, but he wasn't toeing the party line. al-Maliki's political party is the Dawah party, and there's not a single Sunni in it. It's always been a sectarian party. So what we want from al-Maliki is that he represents all of Iraq.

Saudi guy: we are not trying to interfere. It's the Iraqis who are going to go vote.

Some where in all this talk, the Saudi or Qatari guy, or maybe the analyst, insinuated that Iraq was getting too buddy-buddy with the US. 

Fida: Ms. Hanan, people say that al-Maliki has lost all internal support, so now he's stirring things up abroad by making these aggressive statements in order to bolster support back at home.

Hanan: the only thing that will prove this is the elections which are scheduled for the end of May. Also, your guest twisted my words. I didn't say we wanted the worst for the other Arab countries. We started embassies in all the countries, but they all refused us. (starting to raise her voice) Whenever a government counterpart in Saudi dies, we send a whole delegation to pay our respects, we are always trying to show manners to the other Arab countries. We try to have trade with the Saudis. Also, as to being too close to the United States, al-Maliki has said often that yes, it was the US who attacked, but what of the neighboring countries (Saudi) who gave the US the launchpad for the attack? So before you blame Iraq, blame yourselves! And these are the same countries who refuse to open embassies in Iraq but talk about opening them with Israel. And for that matter, I don't think that Russia has a sectarian, Sunni-Shia agenda when even they accuse the Saudis and Qatar of supporting terrorism. And the other day dozens of innocents died in a bomb ... !

Fida: (raising her voice to be heard) Ms. Hana! the fact that there's danger in Iraq is because Iraq itself cannot properly govern and administer itself and provide law and order. Iraq is responsible for what is happening. Also, as to what the other guests have said, al-Maliki has enemies amongst Kurds and everyone. Who is al-Maliki's friend?

Hanan: al-Maliki's friend is the Iraqi street. Those same Kurds and Sunnis have withdrawn their support in the past, on two occasions when we've had previous crises. But then in the end we talked it out and they gave their support again. Just because right now we have problems is not justification for anyone to interfere ...

Fida: the other day, the Kurds were demonstrating in the Iraqi street. The Sunnis have been demonstrating for months, people are demonstrating about a new law. What street are you talking about?

Hanan: listen, those Kurdish demonstrators have issues with other stuff, it's not against al-Maliki personally. As for the Sunnis, there's thousands of Iraqi Sunnis who are fighting for al-Maliki and against the terrorists and in Anbar they rose up against the terrorists. You report the news in a certain way to show sectarianism. I agree with the analyst that I hate sectarianism and we don't want it!

Fida: yes, the analyst was accusing you of employing it.

Hanan: keeps yelling!!

There's not much time left, but Fida turns and gives a final chance for comments to the rest of her guests, and everyone is so wrapped up they lose track of time and she doesn't even have time to reel off the names of all her guests before the hour is up. They ended as far in disagreement as they started, but I think it's good to air these sorts of things in the open.

I like that Fida always smiles after these shows, no matter how wild. See, y'all, y'all can stay calm and work it out and smile, too!

Watch the program on Youtube by clicking here.

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