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January 06, 2007



Didn't anyone ever tell you crack kills? STOP smoking the pipe man.

Philip Grant

Now that you mention Iran, I thought I'd share the views of Mohammad Ali Abtahi on Saddam's execution with fellow devotees of Abu Aardvark [http://www.webneveshteha.com/weblog/?id=2146308444]. Abtahi is a former vice-president of Iran, in Khatami's day, and is a cleric of the reformist tendency and fairly close to Khatami. He has had a weblog for a while, and a couple of days after Saddam's execution he posted the comments I append below, which I have translated very inelegantly. For the sake of giving a little more in the way of color and background, other recent posts have focused on his role in an organization for the "Dialogue of Faiths", his great admiration for the Palestinian ambassador in Iran, and an account of a meeting where a learned Iranian rabbi explained Hanoukkah customs to their Muslim co-citizens. I don't want to add too much in the way of commentary: the post speaks for itself in the main. From my own experience in Iran, I can say that one of the few things that unites all Iranians is a virulent loathing for Saddam, and although I am currently sitting thousands of miles away from the country, I doubt that there were many in Iran who were not jubilant about Saddam's execution. Nationalism and a (in my opinion, entirely justified) bitterness about the 1980-8 war come through fairly strongly in Abtahi's comments. On the other hand he tries to downplay the sectarian angle, despite an obvious professional interest in promoting Shi'ism. It is also interesting to see how the Iranian narrative on Palestine - couched in purely Islamic terms and with certainly no room for Saddam as champion of the Palestinians - clashes with the Arab nationalist one, and how Hamas is perceived (implicitly) as siding with the latter and therefore potentially guilty of ungratefulness to their Iranian benefactors. I would love to know what Khamenei and Ahmadinezhad have been saying in private conversations with Hamas leaders since the execution of Saddam, although I'm not expecting anyone to tell me.
I don't wish to claim that this Iranian view is somehow "right"; certainly the spectacle of Saddam's execution was the triumph of vengeance over justice, as well as an act of great political stupidity, and his specter will in consequence haunt the region for a long time to come, alas. Yet if anyone has failed to receive justice here, it is the people of Iran who did suffer immensely in the 1980s at the hands of Saddam and yet whose suffering was almost instantly forgotten by the world beyond their borders, both near and far, and for whom this execution is in no real sense a form of redress, whatever short-term satisfaction it may have given.

"Some Iranian Perspectives on the Execution of Saddam Hussein"

"1) In Palestine they made a symbolic corpse of Saddam and held funeral ceremonies for him. Hamas likewise in a partisan tone declared Saddam's execution to be a political assassination/act of political terrorism. Hamas also expressed regret for the killing of Zarqawi, murderer of the Iraqi Shi'a and of Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Hakim. They also - like certain Arab countries - even failed to condemn the explosion at the shrine of Imam Hadi and Imam Askari (peace be upon them) in Samarra. It is expected of Iranian government officials - who have recently granted $250 million dollars to Hamas - that they at least seek satisfaction of the requests/demands of Iranian society from Hamas. In spite of the positions that the current president of the republic has taken with regard to Palestine and the question of the Holocaust, mobilizing the entire world against Iran, these positions taken by Hamas and the Palestinians, despite the great sums that the Iranian government has given them [Hamas] out of the pocket of the nation, will provoke the general anger of the people of Iran against Hamas's positions. [Our] Foreign policy in this respect is under the scrutiny of the Iranian population. From the government, which internally comports itself in an extremely Shi'ite way, it is expected that as far as foreign policy and these generous aid payments are concerned, Shi'ite sensibilities at the very least also be taken into account.
2) After the execution of Saddam Hussein, the television station al-Jazeera attempted most unprofessionally to attribute the execution of Saddam to the Shi'ites or to the Iranians. In my opinion it is a matter of great pride for the Shi'ite and the Iranian [alike] that the greatest dictator of the century has been put to death on the gallows; nonetheless the fact of the matter is that Saddam's crimes affected Shi'ite and Sunni and Kurd and the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East in equal proportion, and pride in his humiliation belongs equally to Shi'ites and Sunnis. Those governments who also talk about this matter in a hesitant way are likewise victims of Saddam's crimes but ultimately they fear this same fate for themselves.
3) There is no doubt that Saddam's greatest crime was the war with Iran, in which he was supported by the entire world, especially by America. Today, although the principal criminal of that bloody war is no more, those crimes must not be forgotten. Now is the time for Iran to convene an international conference to discuss Saddam's crimes against Iranians and the damage inflicted on Iran by Iraq. Today's occupiers of Iraq who were yesterday's supporters of Saddam must be answerable for these crimes.


I can't help but wonder how many people were hoping for Saddam to pull a Rocky Sullivan on the gallows, a pop reference for those old enough to remember.

Obligatory anti-Saddam references aside, i.e. he was a pig that deserved jehannum, the fact remains that Saddam faced his ignoble death the way that every Muslim, every man, dreams of facing his own death; in perfect irony, as much of a pig as he was in life, he was as near to Ali ibn Abu Talib and Hussein in death as any one can approximate these days. The potent, symbolic manner of his death humiliates both his executioners and the very nature of the Muslim divide they celebrated at his death. It was Saddam who conducted himself as a Muslim, not them.

The Iranian comments provided by Mr. Grant are perhaps an indication that Saddam wrote a narrative in death that he could never live up to in life, one that every Muslim can understand.

seth edenbaum

Ali Abtahi's english page is here

Nur al-cubicle

AA, what do you know of the thoughts of your colleague, Michael Hudson of Georgetown University?

A December 16th AFP dispatch by Stepher Collinson quoted Hudson quoted him extensively, e.g., "At this point, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are not prepared to admit that they would consider Iranian domination in Iraq or the destruction of their co-religionists"

The Jordan-Saudi-Axis apparently decided to juice up the clash of Sunni/Shia civilizations in late autumn because it is under pressure from clerics and public opinion to support Iraq's Sunnis . And funny that the resignations of the Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal and State Department Phil Zelikow [Shia Option suporter] occurred back to back.

Moreover, can you imagine the conniption that Haniyeh's trip to Tehran caused in Amman, Cairo and Riyadh?

The remaining question is, what is Bush gearing up for? War on Iran or war on the Sunni insurgents? The French papers say the US naval buildup in the Gulf answers the question.


I think this is the most depressing post on Aardvark I've read. Saudi/Jordanian/Egyptian authorities willing to incite anti-Shia hate to keep themselves safe. Shit's fucked up.


Both comfortably align with American interests as understood by the Bush administration, of course, which is convenient.

Yes it does. You state the obvious. What is less obvious, is why you seem to have a problem with it... maybe I've misundertsood what your job is again? I thought you were an expert on public diplomacy?

Here is a case where the interests of a large part of the arab world and the United States coincide, and you seem to be denouncing it as a ploy on the part of Arab Governments and the United States. Isn't it the goal of public diplomacy to find the common ground and open channels of communication? Or am I missing something? You seem to be sowing the seeds of strife here, to me, and you are jumping through hoops to do it!

This part, for instance:

quickly - and largely without explanation - morphed into anger with Iran.

Without explanation? Really? You find it hard to understand why people blame Iran for what the Iranian backed militias in Iraq do? Is that so?


You mean like the ones we installed in power in Baghdad?

Brian Ulrich

Its a common stereotype in the Sunni Arab world that Shi'ites are all Iranian catspaws. This has definitely played a role in Bahrain, and I've suggesting for awhile now that certain Arab states might be fostering these sentiments and perhaps using their ties in the State Dept. to cause some American policy-makers to look with ill favor on Shi'ite movements which threaten them.


This perfectly serves the interests of the Saudi/Egyptian/Jordanian axis of pro-American dictators moderates which has been pushing the "Shia threat" at every opportunity this past year.

Looks like Arabs and Israelis are on the same side of the argument here !! --smiley--smiley


Iran's funding of aQ insurgents, thereby exposing the mullahs as not only failing to serve the interests of their Shiite brethren in Iraq, but aiding and abetting in directly killing fellow co-religionists - fermenting instability and sectarianism within Iraq at the expense of ideological purity.

This will put a serious dent in Iran's aspirations of being the champion of Shi'ism , or Arab nationalism, for that matter: playing factions off one another has always been the mainstay of Arab politics, but anti-Persianism is much more pernicious and pervasive. Will we see Shiites aligning themselves with Sunnis against the Persians?

Abu Aardvark wrote: What's very worrisome though is that more and more tinder is being laid, and what began as an artificially constructed "threat" could begin to take on a life of its own (as Salah al-Nasrawi warned in al-Hayat yesterday).

Wow! This is EXACTLY what I read a week ago in a post I bookmarked on another site. Heh. I kind of like it when two people whose political analyses I respect say the same thing. Makes me feel like I'm in on a secret true prediction. ;-)

Of course, I don't WANT this prediction to come true.

But I hope you know what I mean!

Anyway, Dr. Lynch, here it is.

harrison wrote: playing factions off one another has always been the mainstay of Arab politics, but anti-Persianism is much more pernicious and pervasive. Will we see Shiites aligning themselves with Sunnis against the Persians?

Harrison, one author says "No." At least not if the United States doesn't see the possibility that he and Dr. Lynch have both proejcted. The author I'm citing thinks that making the Arab-Persian divide as important for Iraqis and others as power players would like the Sunni-Shia divide to become might be a great strategy for preventing a particularly nasty decades-long war (hot or cold) over there, but he doesn't think that this balance between the hatreds is going to happen unless someone powerful outside the area decides it's important for it to happen.


Yes, the way to reduce one hate is to cover it with an even better hate. Two minutes of hate, easy to direct at any target.

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