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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 04 BAGHDAD 004868

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, TRANSPARENCY, SADDAM HUSSEIN TRIAL; BAGHDAD

SUMMARY: The major themes in today's editorials were the
upcoming election and Saddam's trial.

Analysis: Independent Al-Mashriq published a page-ten column
entitled, "The Trial. The Game" critiquing the mechanics of
the trial and arguing that it should have been an
international trial rather than an Iraqi one. The writer
accused the Americans of politicizing the trial; it was "the
Americans who deliberately chose Dujail as the first case,
for political reasons-they regard Saddam's policy from 1980-
2003 as red lines that cannot be discussed."

Independent As-Sabah Al-Jadeed's front-page editorial opined
that it was important that the government fully investigate
the assassination attempt that targeted Allawi during his
recent visit to Najaf.

Quasi-independent As-Sabah's front-page editorial,
"Independence" highlighted the importance of the Iraqi Media
Network (its parent organization) remaining free and
independent.

KDP affiliated Al-Taakhi wrote a page-three editorial on,
"Why Our Votes Are Made of Gold" which dealt with its usual
topic of late-the importance of voting for the Kurdish
Alliance (list 730).

The Shi'a Ad-Dawa newspaper published page-seven editorial,
"Yes to the UIA" praising the list "because it was supported
by the religious authority during the former election and
its members have a long history of struggling against the
former regime."

Al-Adala continues dedicating page-five to editorials about
the coming election. Al-Bayna's front-page editorial, "The
Days of the Dictator Are Short" was critical of the trial
and remarked sarcastically, "the bereaved fear that
witnesses will withdraw from this trial as the lawyers have
done previously. Perhaps if such weakness continues Saddam,
the characteristic leader, may order the dissolution of this
trial."

Baghdad published a page-two editorial entitled "Read" that
indirectly criticized the UIA list for making use of
Qur'anic verses for electoral advertising. Another
editorial, "The Impartiality of Al-Sistani" dealt with how
some electoral lists are trying to use Al-Sistani's name to
support their lists. The editorial warned, "those who claim
to defend religion and the religious authority must distance
those elements from political competition." END SUMMARY.

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

A. "The Impartiality of the Election" (Al-Fourat, 12/6)
B. "Saddam Says Long Live Iraq" (Al-Bayyan, 12/6)
C. "Between Optimism and Pessimism" (Ad-Dustoor, 12/6)
D. "Only To Win Votes" (Al-Mada, 12/6)
E. "Hitting Below the Belt" (Az-Zaman, 12/6)

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

A. "The Impartiality of the Election"
(Al-Fourat - independent, anti-coalition, published this
page-two editorial by Majed Fadhel Az-Zaboon)

"The upcoming election represents an important step to
overcome the consequences of the American occupation of
Iraq. In the upcoming election, there will be wide
participation from all Iraqi political groups, including
groups that boycotted the former election, and this will
establish a parliament and government that lasts for four
years; a government that will be able to make more active
decisions than the former transitional governments, which
led the country for just a few months. Therefore, citizens
are looking forward to seeing a national accord government
that puts the interests of citizens above all political and
personal considerations and interests. This government must
also start reconstruction and improve the conditions of the
people.

"In spite of this optimism, a large number of citizens fear
that occupation forces and neighboring countries will
interfere in the upcoming election or affect its results.
This issue will cause unfavorable consequences so for this
reason we should choose honest figures to monitor this
election. Those figures must be well known for their
integrity and justice so that we will be able to overcome
any significant mistakes that may happen during the
election. In addition, voters must have freedom to choose
and distance themselves from any influences that may affect
their choice.

"The upcoming electoral process will put Iraq in front of a
real challenge--between falling into an abyss and moving
forward towards a new future. The next government must be
composed of scientific and qualified figures who are famous
for their loyalties to the country. In this way, we will be
able to conquer sectarianism and begin reconstruction. It is
very important for the next parliament to appoint the
suitable man in the suitable place."

B. "Saddam Says Long Live Iraq"
(Al-Bayyan - affiliated with Ad-Dawa (led by Al-Ja'fari), no
bias, published this page-five editorial by Salim Rasoul)

"I and the citizens of Dujail would like to reproach our
people for not participating in demonstrations during
Saddam's trial. We know that there were demonstrations in
Najaf, Sadr City and some other areas in Baghdad but these
demonstrations were small compared to Saddam's massacres. I
think our people should interact to show our suffering and
demonstrate how much we were tyrannized during the era of
the former regime. We must put pressure on this weak and
very transparent trial. We know that the Iraqi people will
demand strict punishment for the rat.

"I have seen with my own eyes a group of people erecting a
tent at a gate of the Green Zone shouting slogans demanding
strict punishment for the criminal Saddam. I said that
millions of people should join this group so that the entire
world will know that all Iraqis demand the execution of
Saddam. Perhaps, those who benefited from the oil coupons
[i.e. corruption] like Ramsey Clark and the Qatari former
minister of justice would feel ashamed because they are
standing against the will of the Iraqi people.

"Why is the court so cold? This is Saddam and his name
evokes memories of dark nights, terrible prisons and
innocent blood and tears. Saddam said in one of his useless
speeches in front of the cold court, `Long live Iraq.' I do
not know how he can greet Iraq with such a salutation. How
can he address Iraq while he destroyed its economy? How can
he speak to Iraq while he devastated Iraqis? But, then again
what should we expect from Saddam. We feel sad when we see
Saddam give his useless bombastic and speeches in court."

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

"If we think about what will happen after convening the
election we will see that we have two choices, either
optimism or pessimism. The optimist will see that violence,
fear, terrorism, death and corruption will come to an end
with the stabilization of the situation in Iraq. On the
other hand, the pessimist will see that the upcoming stages
will be dangerous and more disastrous than the current
period.

"Optimists are people who lived and suffered during a
difficult era and they think that their conditions will
improve. This group of people hopes for a better future. In
contrast, pessimists are obsessed with melancholy and they
believe that the Iraqi situation is on the verge of an
abyss. This group of people thinks that the upcoming
election will push Iraq towards the deepest abysses.

"Between the two theories, Iraqi society is still under the
control of the pessimists and optimists. However, rational
optimism and pessimism can better analyze the Iraqi scene.
We understand sometimes that we feel weak and unsatisfied
but at the same time we need to have a little bit of
satisfaction with our future. I think we have all the
standards that enable us to overcome the current crisis.
After holding the election there will be a new permanent era
and this stage will depend on political stability, which
will result from a popular determination that represents all
spectra of Iraqi society."

D. "Only To Win Votes"
(Al-Mada - independent, no bias, published this back-page
editorial by Amna Abdul Aziz)

"Election fever is picking up its pace as the countdown
continues. Electoral campaigns have addressed the most
significant problems suffered by people and offered
solutions, especially to the problems of security,
unemployment, and other promises culminating in granting
each Iraqi citizen a piece of land!!

"One of the posters had the map of Iraq surrounded by
darkness with a flash of light in the center where the
candidate's picture was located, indicating that all
electricity problems would end with that candidate wining
the elections. The poster also contained the phrase,
`Terrorism and power shortages are two sides of the same
coin.'

"The truth is that power shortages have worsened these days
as we approach the elections which have also been associated
with many assassinations and terrorist attacks to coincide
with the start of the countdown towards the elections.

"It is true indeed that power shortages and terrorism are
two sides of the same coin, but will these two sides come to
an end if this candidate were to win the ballot, or will it
appear to be another set of unfulfilled promises that have
no aim other than to gain votes."

E. "Hitting Below the Belt"
(Az-Zaman - independent, anti-coalition, published this page-
five editorial by Ali Al-Jaberi)

"The countdown for the upcoming election has begun and
electoral competition fever has increased among candidates
and electoral lists. This electoral conflict aims to gain
votes of the Iraqi people. The electoral campaign has
started by launching electoral promises, slogans and dreams
and all lists have started to speak about the importance of
achieving people's demands and wishes. It seems that they
can make all our dreams come true but [only] after the
election.

"The first stage of the electoral campaign witnessed a
diversity of slogans and posters. Many candidates imagine
themselves the new leaders of Iraq. Wherever we go in
Baghdad we will see posters carrying photos for a new
dictator. We all know that slogans are not always useful. In
addition, we realize that intentions of many competitors are
malevolent because most of them dream of power and control.
However, the second stage of the electoral campaign has
witnessed a significant development. We started to see some
electoral posters ripped down and other electoral ads banned
from being distributed in some areas that are controlled by
specific lists. Moreover, some electoral lists started to
hit below the belt in an attempt to crush and destroy their
competitors.

"It is impossible to say that the stage of hitting below the
belt represents a popular phenomenon. It seems that this is
an organized campaign funded by some electoral lists to
weaken their competitors. But, I am sure that Iraqi voters
will not be deceived by such tricks. This kind of electoral
competition is devoid of democracy and civilization. It
seems that those who conduct these acts know that they
cannot gain a parliamentary seat unless they destroy their
competitors.

"In any case, Iraqi voters will be free from all control
when they reach the ballot boxes to cast their votes. I am
surprised by the attitude of the Independent Electoral
Commission of Iraq (IECI) and the current government for
allowing this [mis]behavior to happen. They should have put
an end to these practices. The IECI and government are
responsible for providing suitable conditions and ensuring
all political lists' rights. Additionally, they must protect
all lists and candidates from, at least, hitting below the
belt. We do not care if the hitting was above the belt
because it will not cause damage."

KHALILZAD

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