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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Iraqi Government, December 15th

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 004781

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, NEA/PPD, NEA/PPA, NEA/AGS, INR/IZ, INR/P

E.0. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO IZ
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: IRAQI GOVERNMENT, DECEMBER 15th
ELECTION, NATIONAL RECONCILIATION, SADDAM HUSSEIN TRIAL,
TRANSPARENCY, SOVEREIGNTY; BAGHDAD

SUMMARY: The major theme in editorials of today's newspapers
focused on the upcoming election, electoral platforms and
Saddam's trial.

Analysis: The independent Ad-Dustoor and quasi-independent
As-Sabah focused on the voters and the difficulties they
face in sifting through the huge number of electoral lists,
candidates and platforms as well as concerns about a lack of
democratic methods and sectarian tendencies in voting.

Independent Az-Zaman highlighted the prisoner abuse scandal
in its page-five editorial which accused the Americans of
complicity. A second editorial on page-eight dealt with the
"Impartiality of the [Shi'a] Religious Authority."

The Kurdish Al-Ittihad published a page-three editorial
entitled, "Khaniqeen: the City of Martyrs Prepares for the
Upcoming Election," that addressed the city's tragedy and
how it will always be a part of Kurdistan. At-Taakhi's
editorials dealt with the upcoming election, democracy and
the electoral platform of the Kurdish list No. 730.

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The partisan Shi'a newspapers (Al-Adala, Al-Bayyan, Ad-Dawa,
and Al-Bayna Al-Jadidah) published editorials about the
upcoming elections, electoral platforms and Saddam's trial.
Al-Adala published a page-three editorial entitled
"Disparagement," in which the author opined that the trial
was fair but that Saddam did not deserve justice. Most of
the Shi'a papers critiqued the trial as too lenient on
Saddam and other defendants.

Baghdad newspaper carried a back-page editorial entitled
"Iyad Allawi Cultivates A Culture of Love" praising the
candidate and encouraging voters to choose his list.
November 29, 2005. END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------
TABLE OF CONTENTS
-------------------------------

A. "The Teacher Is Against Me" (Al-Fourat, 11/29)
B. "Saddam's Trial and the Farce of Human Rights" (Al-Bayna
Al-Jadidah, 11/29)
C. "Voters" (Ad-Dustoor, 11/29)
D. "Differentiation" (As-Sabah, 11/29)
E. "The Impartiality of the Religious Authority" (Az-Zaman,
11/29)

----------------------------------------
SELECTED COMMENTARIES
----------------------------------------

A. "The Teacher Is Against Me"
(Al-Fourat - independent, anti-coalition, published this
back-page editorial by Daoud Al-Farhan)

"An assembly member revealed that the government has made
critical decisions without reporting to the national
assembly yet we all know that this government has been
established by the national assembly. In addition, the Prime
Minister is a member of the elected national assembly and is
also a member in the UIA [United Iraqi Alliance] that has
the overwhelming majority in the parliament. Hence, he will
guarantee the majority of votes when he places an issue
before assembly members. In any case, opposition members in
the national assembly interpret this procedure as something
along the lines of, `the national assembly is weak, it just
questions the government and ministers but without taking
legal action against negligent officials.'

"I think that this is a weak excuse and it is similar to the
pretext of school dropouts who claim that the teacher hates
them which is why they have failed in their studies. I would
like the speaker of the national assembly and the parliament
to give an opinion on this issue because it is very
dangerous matter. The parliament must not be merely dcor
for what is called democracy. We all know that the
government has twice extended the stay of the occupation
forces without having approval from the national assembly.
Many assembly members such as the Sadrists have objected to
this decision.

"Furthermore, the government has conducted deals with some
countries without any notification of the national assembly.
Recently, National Security Advisor Muafaq Al-Rubai'ee
conducted a meeting on security cooperation with Iran. He
also agreed to organize the mechanisms of access for Iranian
pilgrims to Najaf and Karbala. In fact, we do not know what
the powers of national security advisor are. Who gave him
the authority to sign a security agreement with Iran without
reporting to the national assembly?

"Moreover, the national assembly knows nothing about oil
revenues. Additionally, it does not know which cities have
assumed security responsibilities from the occupation forces
and the Iraqi people want an explanation from the government
about these issues. How can the government extend the stay
of occupation forces in Iraq? Occupation forces which have
destroyed, killed and looted the country. And if the
national assembly has no role in this issue, how can we
speak about democracy?"

B. "Saddam's Trial and the Farce of Human Rights"
(Al-Bayna Al-Jadidah - no bias, affiliated with the Shiite
Political Council, published this front-page unattributed
editorial)

"Saddam's speech during his trial yesterday reminds us of
his former speeches. In fact, we and other families of
martyrs thought that this trial would restore our Iraqi
national pride which vanished during the era of the former
regime. But, this trial, which was established in the name
of human rights, has become nothing but a farce.

"The trial should not have been a place for Saddam to give
his bombastic speeches. These speeches could destroy our
hopes in the new Iraq. How can we establish a fair trial for
a tyrant that used his power to commit manslaughter and
wasted the wealth of Iraq? Our people were suffering to
death during Saddam's regime while Ba'athists and Arabs
danced merrily.

"We hope that our future will be new and civilized. But,
civilization does not mean weakness--we have clear evidence
that indicts the former corrupt regime. We have dreamed of
establishing a new era that is free from oppression and
terrorism but unfortunately, we have noticed that Saddam's
trial was a farce for this criminal.

"Democracy is not a theatre in which we wait for actors to
put on a significant performance. Saddam was sentenced to
the death penalty since 1959 after he tried to assassinate
Abdul Karim Qassem but escaped to Egypt to be saved from his
sentence. Therefore, we must decapitate the head of the
snake so that we can get rid of the dwarfs of terrorism."

C. "Voters"
(Ad-Dustoor - independent, no bias, published this front-
page editorial by Bassim Al-Sheikh)

"We know that Iraqi voters are astonished by the huge number
of electoral posters. But, at the same time, they are
puzzled because they cannot distinguish between the enormous
numbers of electoral lists and their platforms. Thus, we
think that voters will, in the end, vote according to
foreign influences that have nothing to do with the proper
electoral awareness of voters.

"Voters must distance themselves from emotional and
psychological influences, as well as others, that may happen
inside the polling center. Unfortunately, electoral
campaigns coerce voters to choose according to grandiose
slogans, which affect voters' choices.

"When voters vote according to those factors, the democratic
process will lose its most important chance to be
successful. If we let our emotions determine our political
choices, the final result will end in failure--emotions and
politics often cannot be reconciled. If we vote according to
our emotions, we will lament when we see those whom we
elected fail to implement their promises. We must realize
that elections represent a practice to identify the best,
most truthful and efficient candidates that can deal with
reality in Iraq."

D. "Differentiation"
(As-Sabah - Iraqi Media Network, government financed, pro-
coalition, published this front-page editorial by Muhammad
Abdul Jabbar)

"Electoral lists and their candidates compete to win the
votes of the populace. Each list seeks to obtain the largest
number of votes to acquire more seats in the next parliament-
-these lists use different methods and styles to convince
voters to vote for them. These methods are numerous but they
must not violate the laws of election lest they be subject
to legal actions.

"The electoral lists published and disseminated their
political platforms but it is very important to distinguish
between slogans and platforms. We know that slogans
represent general goals while platforms represent practical
plans to achieve those goals. It seems that most of the
current political platforms are similar in their subjects
and ideas.

"We do not know the percentage of voters who will vote
according to political platforms because it seems that this
percentage is unknown so far. However, the similarity of
political platforms among electoral lists will make it
difficult for voters to distinguish among them. On the other
hand, voters will be able to recognize names of candidates
according to their factional, sectarian and ethnic
affiliations. I think that this issue will harm the
democratic perspective of the electoral process. We all know
that democracy mandates that free choice and honest
awareness must be primary conditions for public elections.

"Candidates can provide voters a free service by announcing
the differences between their electoral lists. These
differences must be clear and decisive so that voters can
choose the best list. This process will only work if voters
vote according to political platforms."

E. "The Impartiality of the Religious Authority"
(Az-Zaman - independent, anti-coalition, published this page-
eight editorial by Ibrahim Al-Khayat)

"During the past two years, mosques were bombed, religious
scholars were assassinated and we also heard calls for
eradicating people according to sectarian reasons. However,
the religious authority remained wise. After the downfall of
the former regime, people thought that it was permissible to
loot but the religious authority issued a fatwa which stated
that looting is religiously prohibited. In addition, it
called on Iraqis to cooperate to build their country.

"When Al-Sistani issued a fatwa encouraging the public to
participate widely in the election, people reacted quickly
against terrorism. Today, the wise religious authority has
confirmed its parental role by not supporting any specific
electoral list at the expenses of others. This move has put
an end to any political group that wishes to use Al-
Sistani's name in the electoral campaign. The religious
authority has announced it will not receive any government
delegations so that they cannot portray their visit as
endorsement for their electoral list.

"The religious authority calls on Iraqis to participate
widely in the election because voting is a legitimate right
for citizens. This is not an obligation but the religious
authority merely wants to advise citizens--it avoids
interfering in the electoral competition so that nobody can
speak against its holy position."

KHALILZAD

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