No sooner had President Jalal Talbani aggressively attacked the majority of Arab countries for not offering their condolences to Iraq after the tragedy of the Two Imams Bridge than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it had received messages of sympathy from a number of Arab and foreign countries, amongst them Egypt, Bahrain, and Tunisia, for last Wednesday’s stampede in which a thousand Iraqis lost their lives. I do not know if the ministry statement was issued to lessen the impact of the president’s diatribe or if Arab governments expressed their grief after his speech.
I wish Talbani would refrain from criticizing the majority of Arab countries and, instead, name them individually. Would the Iraqi President place the United Arab Emirates, which welcomes Iraqi leaders with utmost hospitality and supports Baghdad on equal footing with Qatar who donated 100 million US dollars for the relief effort after hurricane Katrina swept through the American south? Should the Libyan reaction be compared to that of Bahrain whose monarch was honoring Ambassador Hassan al Ansari previously shot and wounded in Baghdad where he plans to return after he recovers from his injuries? How can he compare Egypt who lost its envoy in the violence engulfing the Iraqi capital to Syria where the government rushed to express its condolences for the loss of lives after American hurricane?
Is it wrong to send envoys to Iraq? Of course not! Rather, Arab governments are mistaken when they heed to terrorist threats and refrain form sending their diplomats to Baghdad. Do all Arab governments cooperate with Iraq? Of course not! This however does not justify the latest attack by President Talbani.
His words, even if correct, will not bring about Arab support, at a time when the national identity of Iraq and the constitution are still being debated, irrespectively of the veracity of the arguments proposed. His remarks serve neither Iraq nor its people since a significant portion of the Arab public is already indifferent to the ongoing violence in the country and are likely to loose interest completely now.
Consider the case of the Arab League who has kept the region preoccupied about the national identity of Iraq and how democracy and issued recommendations on democracy and the constitution but did not intervened after the recent coup in Mauritanian or show interest in the military seizing power in an Arab country from the top of a tank in 2005!
This is why media pressure does not resolve anything.
Returning diplomats to Baghdad and supporting Iraq will not be achieved through the media; they are the fruit of long tiresome negotiations from behind closed doors. If statements are indeed necessary, the positions of those who truly support Iraq ought to be recorded instead of being celebrated in general meaningless rhetoric.
More serious would be Talbani issuing his latest criticism to deflect attention from the dispute over the Iraqi constitution. The president’s duty is to spread confidence in the future of his country and reassure well-meaning Arabs about the situation. However, if he truly believes the attack is deserved, then perhaps he should have included Iran’s meddling in Iraq and discussed the millions of dollars Tehran gives to loyal groups and councils in its bid to impose a new reality, which will be difficult to alter. If Iranian finances were spent on achieving stability and security in Iraq, the current situation would be markedly different.
Enough escapism, enough complications. Let us start calling matters by their own name, out of love for Iraq and concern for its future.