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Incisive Al Jazeera Analysis on US Occupation
Al-Jazeera talkshow discusses party behind killing of Iraqi cleric Al-Hakim
The party responsible for the killing of Iraqi Shi'i cleric and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq Chairman Muhammad al-Baqir al-Hakim was the topic of discussion of Al-Jazeera TV's "Open dialogue" programme on 30 August. Many pointed the finger at the occupying forces or said that the killing would bring advantages for the forces. The 80-minute talk show, which was broadcast live from Beirut, hosted Iranian Vice-President Seyyed Mohammad Ali Abtahi in Tehran; Muslim Ulema Committee member Dr Muthanna al-Harith al-Dari in Baghdad; official in charge of the affairs of Iraqi Shi'i leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Beirut, Hamid al-Khaffaf; Moroccan thinker and member of the General Secretariat of the Pan-Arab Conference Dr Abd-al-Ilah Belqaziz, also in Beirut, and others. The programme was moderated by presenter Ghassan Bin-Jiddu.
Bin-Jiddu begins with an introductory remark, in which he says: "Iraq has been destroyed regardless of who caused this - Saddam Husayn, George Bush, or anyone else. Iraq, which has a civilization dating back 7,000 years, is occupied." He adds: "Iraq is today suffering a great deal as a result of the humiliation felt by the Iraqi human being and the loss of security." He then regrets the killing of Iraqi Shi'i leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, on 29 August.
Asked about the death of Al-Hakim, Belqaziz attributes it to "the deterioration of Iraq's security under the US occupation of Iraq" and to "the colonialist US-British invasion of Iraq, which opened the door for all attempts to undermine national stability and the Iraqi social fabric."
"Occupation forces are responsible"
Bin-Jiddu then asks Dr Al-Harith in Baghdad if he agrees with "Arab public opinion, which holds the US occupation responsible for all the chaos, insecurity and assassinations" in Iraq. Al-Harith says: "Yes, there is an increasing feeling among all the Iraqis that the occupation forces are responsible for this incident killing of Al-Hakim and earlier for the UN and the Jordanian embassy incidents." He then says: "The occupation forces are responsible because they are in charge of the security file in Iraq and they did not transfer this file to any national Iraqi side."
He adds that "the occupation forces" only take care of themselves. Al-Harith adds: "The occupation forces are perhaps the first beneficiary of these incidents. Some Iraqis give reasons for this. The occupation forces as we see and hear are in a dilemma owing to the escalating resistance operations. This dilemma may prompt them to try to reshuffle cards in the Iraqi arena by attempting to foment a sectarian war. They did not succeed in triggering such a war after the dissolution of the Iraqi state and the fall of Baghdad and after the spread of insecurity and instability following the occupation of Iraq. They did not succeed because all the Iraqis were united and aware of this, so they foiled this scheme. In order to get out of this dilemma they may reshuffle cards in the Iraqi arena through assassinations here and there or blasts in this or that location."
Bin-Jiddu then asks him: "Are we not largely exaggerating things by holding the US forces, the US occupation, or the US side responsible for the assassination of this person? Why do you not speak frankly and specify which side is involved in such a serious operation?" Al-Harith responds by saying: "Specifying it is difficult for me. It is difficult even for the big parties. The occupation forces themselves have not hinted at any side yet with regard to the Jordanian embassy and UN blasts."
Turning to Iranian Vice-President Abtahi in Tehran, Bin-Jiddu asks him to explain the statement issued by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i, in which he said "the assassination of Al-Hakim serves the interests of America and the Zionists". Abtahi, speaking in Arabic, says: "I think that the only ones who benefit from such actions are those who do not want security and stability to prevail in Iraq. They do not want a respectable country like Iraq to enjoy calm and stability after the fall of the corrupt former regime. Those who carry out these ugly crimes - represented by the bombings and assassinations - do not want Iraq to be a secure and stable country. In accordance with the international rules and laws, the occupation force should maintain security in the occupied country. The chaos existing in Iraq benefits the Americans. It serves the major interests of the Americans, who want to colonize this Islamic part of the Middle East."
"Chaos will prolong the US presence"
Asked how chaos can serve the US interests, Abtahi says: "This does not mean that the United States is behind these operations. Chaos will prolong the US presence on the pretext of these incidents. A quiet situation paves the way for the occupation forces' faster departure from Iraq. I believe that Iraq needs security, stability and calm so that occupation can leave Iraq. This is disrupted by those who do not want security and stability to prevail in brotherly Iraq."
Asked whether the US forces are responsible for everything that happens in Iraq, Hamid al-Khaffaf replies: "Imam Al-Sistani issued a statement this morning condemning this criminal act and holding the occupation forces responsible for any dangers threatening Iraq." He adds: "His eminence believes that the only solution to the security problem lies in activating the role of the Iraqi security and police forces and providing them with all the necessary equipment to play their role in full." Responding to another question, he says: "Assassinations and bombings against an entire people are taking place. This incident was carried out by parties that belong to an ideology that condones the shedding of the blood of other people. These parties are experienced and professional in doing this." He adds: "There are radical groups embracing an ideology that says killing hundreds of people in a holy place is condoned." Al-Khaffaf then describes the ideology as "a strict religious ideology that believes that the blood of these people is worthless". He appeals to the Arabs and Muslims "to help the Iraqi people put an end to the occupation of their land".
Bin-Jiddu then asks the Iranian vice-president about accusations that the strict conservatives in Iran greatly benefit from the assassination of Al-Hakim "because they want to export the Iranian model of revolution to Iraq and they do not want Al-Najaf Hawzah the Shi'i seminary to restore its position as a centre of radiation and thus compete with the hawzah in Qom". Abtahi says: "You know that Sayyid Al-Hakim worked seriously on the issue of Iraq. He had his quarters here in Iran for 22 years and he worked hard against Saddam Husayn's regime. All the Iranian people - the conservatives and reformists - agree that opposing Saddam Husayn was a religious duty. Al-Hakim believed in this religious duty in all his activities. We must be realistic." He then denies that Shi'i, Sunni or Iranian communities are behind the assassination.
Killing "concocted by Zionism or the crusade"
Egyptian cleric Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi then joins the programme by telephone from Cairo. Asked if Al-Hakim killing could lead to Shi'i-Sunni sedition in Iraq, Al-Qaradawi condemns the assassination and says: "I advise my brothers the Shi'i not to respond to the calls made by some people, who seek to sow sedition between the Sunnis and Shi'is and to split up the nation. Iraq must remain united as it was after the fall of the dictator. All must be united. The man Al-Hakim fell martyr and martyrdom is the wish of every Muslim." He adds: "The crime could not have been committed by a man with sound mind and faithful heart. It must have been concocted by Zionism or the crusade, which harbour grudge to the Muslims. The crime seeks to trigger internal strife within the nation. We must not at all yield to it. Iraq must remain united with its Sunnis and Shi'is, Arabs and Kurds, and all communities so that it can stand up in the face of occupation and try to build itself anew after the age of despotism."
US, UK, Israel are "beneficiaries"
Hani Sulayman, member of the Popular Committees and Associations Grouping, then speaks from the Beirut studio. He says: "The main beneficiaries of this crime are the Zionist enemy and the US-British occupation. In order to know the culprit we must know the beneficiary. Following the heroic resistance operations in Iraq, which targeted the US-British occupation forces, and following the mammoth popular and national rejection of occupation, Iraqi popular unity began to emerge against the occupation. What can occupation do against all the people who reject occupation? Some strike at the occupation with fire and others with words. The occupation interferes and strikes back. If it succeeds in destroying order, it will be destroying the society. Hence, it tries to make people fight each other by suggesting that certain Iraqi or non-Iraqi forces are the ones who carried out the crime." Responding to a question on who he thinks carried out the assassination, he says he is a lawyer and is still awaiting the outcome of investigation. He says: "I cannot specify the side which carried it out. Investigation will determine it." He adds: "Politically speaking, anyone who destroys the unity of the Iraqi society will be a Zionist-American agent."
Perpetrators have "experience in mass graves"
Commenting on this, Hamid al-Khaffaf says: "Actually there is a big plot going on against the people of Iraq. There are fears of sectarian sedition, but we have no fears about the Sunnis and Shi'i. The Iraqi people love each other. The religious authorities warn even against such acts in Sunni holy shrines like the tomb of Imam Abu-Hanifah with the aim of fomenting a sectarian sedition. But, praised be God, the Iraqis have a high sense of responsibility and the wise and enlightened leaders are capable of preventing such things." He adds: "The general feeling in Iraq is that such an act could not have been done except by people belonging to extremist ideology condoning the shedding of blood and professional people who have experience in mass graves, killing and terrorism."
"Occupation cannot continue or last without sowing sedition"
Hani Sulayman then says: "What was announced about the size of the Zionist transactions and investments in Iraq, which amount to 50m dollars a month; what was announced about the opening of an office for research on the Euphrates River; what was announced about the presence of Zionist intelligence in Baghdad; and what was announced about US Vice-President Dick Cheney's company as the first to invest in Iraq, followed by Bechtel Company; all show that this is a tyrannical occupation. We must not rule out a role by this occupation in destroying the Iraqi society and fomenting sedition because this occupation cannot continue or last without sowing sedition.
This is especially true if we realize that this massive criminal act cannot be carried out - out of my political conviction of course - by Saddam Husayn's remnants or any other pursued remnants. This is a great task that requires monitoring the movement of the entire Iraqi society. Hence, it cannot be done except by big powers or agents of big powers. I ask you brothers not to rule out a role by Israel and the US-British occupation at this stage. This occupation cannot last unless it carries out such acts. I do not want to acquit an Iraqi side or perhaps an Arab side. Investigation will take its course in this regard. But we are reading the political situation in Iraq. There is a Zionist-American decision that this great Iraq must be destroyed and it cannot be destroyed except from within. It cannot be destroyed from outside but from inside, especially since the US-British occupation forces arrested members and leaders of local government or local councils."
Asked about the names of those arrested, Sulayman says: "I do not remember names, but a leading figure affiliated with late Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim is still under arrest. The British-US occupation forces raided a large number of his offices and there are still people in detention. The US occupation complained a great deal about the national Shi'i positions, which rejected occupation, and the militant positions, too. It wants to destroy this society and its unity. It cannot survive unless it destroys this society."
Belqaziz speaks next. He says: "The US occupation authority is today using this operation to suggest that certain Iraqi parties that have developed a feeling of defeat at this stage are trying to take revenge by carrying out such operations. This strategy is completely exposed because the crimes committed in Iraq these days - especially when understood as acts of revenge exchanged by the Iraqis - do not eventually mean other than greater demand for a US security role. America wants to push the Iraqis towards demanding a greater US security role on the backdrop of the feelings of collective fear of exchanged revenge."
Shaykh Abd-al-Amir Shams-al-Din, the mufti of Jubayl in Lebanon, who is present in the Beirut studio, blames "the US-British occupation for the absence of security in Iraq" and for all the incidents taking place there.
"Instability in Iraq is in the interest of Iran?"
Bin-Jiddu then asks the Iranian vice-president to respond to the following: "In the same way as some accuse the US occupation of being the primary beneficiary from instability in Iraq as this increases the Iraqi people's need for the US occupation, some say instability in Iraq is in the interest of Iran because this will prompt the United States to seek the help of Iran in one way or another in order to play a role in Iraq." Abtahi begins by saying he disagrees with any suggestion that "a religious, sectarian or ethnic group" was behind the assassination of Al-Hakim. He adds: "I think the biggest losers in this regard are the Islamic nation and the Iraqi people." Asked again if instability in Iraq benefits Iran, Abtahi does not respond apparently because he could not hear the question.
Ghazi Khamis, deputy leader of the Kurdish Party in Lebanon, says: "In my opinion the one who carried out this ugly crime killing of Al-Hakim was the Zionist enemy, backed by the US occupation forces. It is the first to benefit from sowing chaos and inflaming the fire of sectarian sedition in order to divide and fragment Iraq. It is thus trying to fulfil the dream of controlling the land from the Euphrates to the Nile. God willing, this dream will not come true because there are women who give birth to free heroes."
"Loser" of killing
Asked who the biggest loser is, Belqaziz says: "Politically, the direct loser is the social, religious and political current that is affiliated with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution. I do not think it is possible to fill the vacuum caused by the absence of Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim." He adds: "He who demands the United States on the basis of the international law to fulfil its international commitments, implement the Geneva Convention and shoulder its security responsibilities in Iraq will be mistaken. The United States is not concerned about the security of the Iraqis, the security of the religious leaders, or the security of the holy places. It is concerned only about the security of its soldiers in Iraq."
Asked about the political future of Iraq and whether resistance or peaceful activity will prevail, Muthanna al-Dari says: "The biggest loser of the assassination of Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, as Belqaziz said, is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution. The biggest losers are also the Iraqi people and all their communities, because signs began to emerge some time ago on an increasing feeling of aversion to the occupation forces after a period of time during which the occupation forces were tested. There was talk that these are occupation forces and the promises they made will not be implemented. Another trend said let us wait a little. The first viewpoint began to prevail in the recent past. Many of our Shi'i brothers in southern Iraq began to complain about the occupation forces' behaviour. Some intellectual forums began to discuss this issue. This issue reached the Governing Council. They first used the term coalition forces and then they began to say the occupation forces. They began to frankly criticize the security situation in Iraq. What we heard today about Bahr-al-Ulum's suspension of his membership of the Governing Council proves this.
"There are also signs on the emergence of a new state of affairs the news media may not see well or concentrate on. This state is represented in an increase in awareness and closeness of viewpoints on the occupation forces. One of the prominent indications on this - and here I return to your question - is that we began to hear about operations through the news media like operations in Al-Hillah, Karbala Al-Diwaniyah and Basra. These operations were not carried out haphazardly; there is a popular background to and a viewpoint that began to prevail that the occupation forces have not fulfilled all their promises. Accordingly, we fear that these premeditated assassinations will foil the state of harmony existing among all the Iraqis."
Asked if political realism will prevail in the future, Abtahi says: "I think the future of Iraq depends on what takes place in it. Some quarters do not want stability for Iraq, others want realism to prevail and others still think only of the occupation and not of the Iraqi people. I think the political future of Iraq requires greater awareness of the fact there are enemies who do want to see Iraq free, independent and stable. I think that doing all that is possible to get rid of occupation so that the Iraqi people can make their own decision will benefit Iraq and its future."
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