Saturday, October 13, 2007

Former President Abdul Rahman Aref


 1916 Baghdad - August 24, 07 Amman
President of IRAQ
Between April 16, 1966 and July 1968


President Aref (middle), King Faisal Al Saoud (left)
and president Jamal Abdul Naser (right) in 1967



Aref's Presidential Achievements
A Partial List

# Opened the doors for negotiations with the Kurds to ensure a democratic solution two months after resuming his presidential duties.




# Lead the negotiations with the Russians to provide weapons for the Syrian and Egyptian armies


# Visited France and met with President Charles DeGaul, which led to the improvement of Arab relationship with France


# Implemented the plant to extract sulfur from the natural gas in Kirkuk in 1966


# Implemented the dry-gas pipeline, which transferred gas from Kirkuk to Baghdad to provide power plants, oil refineries and large factories with fuel in 1967


# Implemented the transport pipeline to transfer crude liquid gases from Kirkuk to Taji Oil Gas Factory in 1967


# Signed the contract for the export of crude oil from Iraq to Turkey in March 1968


# Signed a protocol allowing the export of piped natural gas from Iraq to Turkey on April 6, 1967


Announcement

The Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS) is pleased to announce the production of a short documetary film about the former IRAQI president Abdul Rahman Aref
Coming Soon on DVD


Three-minute Trailer


Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS)
P.O. Box 425125
Cambridge, MA. 02142 USA
Website:
http://www.INEAS.org


INEAS is an Independent, tax-exempt, educational and cultural organization geared to educate the public and inform the media on issues related to Asia & Africa.
INEAS was founded in 1994

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

As-Sarrafiya Bridge -- History



كان اطول جسر في العالم .. ذكريات عن جسر الصرافية
زياد مسعود
18 April 2007
 
سمي جسر الصرافية شعبياً جسر القطار، وسماه من يعيش بقربه جسر العلوازية وجسر العيواضية وسماه اهل بغداد، كرخ ورصافة الجسر الحديدي وجسر الصرافية، والاسم الاخير هو الاشهر لكن تسمية الجسر الحديدي جاءت من أنه بني مركباُ من قواطع حديدية ظاهرة وسقف بمقاطع حديدية على عكس جسر العتيق أو جسر المأمون ثم جسر الشهداء وجسر الصالحية الذي كان يسمى رسمياً جسر الملك فيصل ثم سمي جسر الاحرار وكان اسمه الشعبي جسر مود نسبة الى القائد البريطاني الجنرال مود فاتح بغداد خلال الحرب العالمية الاولى وجسر الائمة الذي يربط الكاظمية بالاعظمية وكان جسراً خشبياً مخيفاً قبل ان يبنى بشكل عصري . كان الغرض من انشاء جسر الصرافية هوعبور القطار عليه ليوصل بين محطة قطار شرقي بغداد التي كانت تقع قريباً من كلية التجارة واعدادية صناعة بغداد ومحطة قطار غربي بغداد التي كانت تقع في كراج العلاوي الحالي قبيل انشاء محطة السكك بالكرخ التي تسمى بالمحطة العالمية.ا
كلفت شركة كوبربلايزرد البريطانية الاستشارية الهندسية بوضع تصاميم الجسر واستمر عملها عامين.
جسر في سدني
كان جسر الصرافية معداً للانشاء في مدينة سدني في استراليا قبل ان تقرر وزارة الاشغال والمواصلات العراقية شراء هيكله الحديدي وتعهد الى شركة كوبربلايزرد بادخال التحويرات المقتضية على هيكله وبدأ العمل بتنفيذه اواخر سنة 1946 من قبل شركة (هولو) البريطانية.اطول جسر في العالم..ا

في حين بلغ طول الجسر مع مقترباته 2166 متراً بينما بلغ طول القسم الواقع على النهر (450) متراً وكان بذلك اطول جسر في العالم في حينه. تعثر بناء الجسر بسبب انتفاضة الوثبة سنة 1948 واعتبره المواطنون الذين قاوموا عقد معاهدة بورت سموث بين العراق وبريطانيا جسراً يتم انشاؤه لخدمة الاغراض البريطانية فقاموا بمهاجمة المهندسين الانكليز والعمال الهنود الذين يعملون فيه ورموهم بالحجارة والقطع الحديدية كما تم رمي بعض قطعه الحديدية من النهر فتوقف العمل فيه لفترة.

قاده عبد المفرجي بمساعدة ياس علي الناص
تمت العودة الى العمل خلال وزارة السيد محمد الصدر واستمر حتى عام 1952 حيث جرى احتفال رسمي كبير حضره السيد جميل المدفعي رئيس الوزراء و شاهد البغداديون لاول مرة قطاراً يسير على جسر حديدي على دجلة قاده المرحوم سائق القطار الاقدم السيد عبد عباس المفرجي وكان يشرف على سيره الفنان ياس علي الناصر باعتباره فنياً متخصصاً بسير القطارات الحديثة.

الجسر الذبيح
ذبحوا جسر الصرافية منذ ايام وهدموا بذلك معلماً من معالم بغداد العمرانية ولكنه سيعود باذن الله بهيا شامخاً من جديد
المدى العراقية
Arabic script taken from: (صوت العراق) - 18-04-2007 www.sotaliraq.com

 
Translated By Dr Ismail Jalili, UK
الترجمة للانكليزية - الدكتور اسماعيل الجليلي
23 April 2007
As-Sarrafiya Bridge (Jisr Al-Sarrafiya)

Officially called As-Sarrafiya Bridge, but popularly known as Jisr Al-Qittar (The Train Bridge). For those who lived nearby, it was Al-Alwaziya and Al-Iwadhiya Bridge, and for Baghdadis it was known as Al-Jisr Al-Hadeedi (The Iron Bridge), however, the name of As-Sarafiyya remained the most commonly used.

The Bridge was the first iron bridge in Baghdad. The other bridges existing in Baghdad at the time were Jisr Al-Ateeq [the Old Bridge], Jisr Alma'moon, Jisr Al-Shuhadaa' [the Martyrs] and Jisr Al-Salhiya [the area west of the bridge]. The latter was officially known as King Faisal Bridge during the monarchy but renamed as Al-Ahrar [the Freemen] Bridge after the establishment of the Republic in 1958 eventhough the common name used by the people was Maud Bridge (after General Maud who occupied Baghdad at WW1). Another bridge was Jisr Al-A'imma that linked Al-Adhamiya and Al-Kadhum. It was at the time a wooden bridge, which frightened whoever saw it.
The purpose of As-Sarrafiya Bridge was to establish a modern train bridge linking the two railway stations on either sides of River Tigris in Baghdad. The East of Baghdad Railway Station, which was near the Faculty of Commerce, and The Commerce Secondary School. The West of Baghdad Railway Station was close to the current El-Alaawi Garage, which was later replaced by the newly constructed International Railway Station in the early 1960s.

The design and planning of the As-Sarrafiya Bridge was granted to a British firm Cooper-Blazer*, which completed the plans in two years.


A Bridge in Sydney
Al-Sarrafiya Bridge had been planned for Sydney, Australia prior to its purchase by the Ministry of Works and Transport who bought the steel framework and arranged for the bridge to be modified and adapted for Baghdad.
Work to construct the bridge commenced at the end of 1946 by the British Construction Company Holo (the exact English spelling not certain).

The Longest Bridge in the World for its time
The length of bridge was 2166 meters and the river span was 450 meters, thus making it the longest bridge in the world at the time. The construction of the bridge was interrupted by the Al-Wathba or AL-Intifadha (The Leap), the popular uprising of Iraqis against the Portsmouth Treaty between Britain and Iraq. It was thought at the time that the Bridge was intended to serve British interests. Rioters attacked the British engineers and the Indian labourers with stones and iron pieces and this led to the suspension of the construction work.

First driven by Abd Al-Mafraji and supervised by Yas Ali Al-Naser
Work on the Bridge was recommenced at the time of Sayyed (Sir in a religious context) Mohamed Al-Sadr Cabinet and was completed in 1952. It was officially opened with great ceremony that was attended by the Prime Minster at the time Mr Jameel (Jamil) Al-Madfa'ie. It was the first time Baghdadis saw a train crossing an iron bridge. At the ceremony, the train was driven by the most senior train driver, Mr Abd Abbas Al-Mafraji and supervised by the Iraqi Artist Yas Ali Alnaser, who was a specialist technician in modern trains.

The decimated Bridge
They have now decimated Al-Sarrafiya Bridge and in so doing they have destroyed one of Baghdad's modern monuments. However, there is no doubt that the Bridge will come back again.
(see photos)
Al-Medaa Al-Iraqia
Arabic script is courtesy of Al-Iraq Voice (صوت العراق ( 18-04-2007 
Translated by Dr Ismail Jalili
الترجمة للانكليزية الدكتور اسماعيل الجليلي المملكة المتحده ‘
23 نيسان 2007

* The exact english name is unavailable. I acknowledge the contribution of Dr Ghanim Al-Sheikh in providing the full name.

More details on the bombings Who bombed Al-Sarrafiya Bridge
Other references on the history of the BridgeIraq the Model: http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2007/04/jisr-al-hadeed.html
all of Baghdad Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Baghdad_(1917)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sluglett Gets Corrected on IRAQ's History

















Peter Sluglett inserted his comments within Tarik al-Ani's reply to Peter. You will see Sluglett's comments in RED bold below. Click on this link first to read Tarik's original commentary to the exchanges between Wafaa' Al-Natheema, Nissim Rejwan and Peter Sluglett: http://zennobia.blogspot.com/2007/02/tarik-al-ani-responds-to-peter-sluglett.html

I read your exchange of messages with Naseem Rejwan and Peter Sluglett. The subject is indeed a very difficult one; one with which I have struggled and entered into debates and quarrels here in Finland. It has cost me a lot and continues to do so… No Western "scholar" would ever admit ignorance, or that a "wog" (not as Scientology defines it though) would know better than him or her. That must be clearly understood right from the beginning. Most also think that because they, as Westerners, are "superior" to us in every aspect (sic!), then their writings are always reliable and correct and what we write is merely "emotional outbursts" that "lack academic seriousness and credibility." This is the most ridiculous nonsense. I hold my Arab, Persian and Turkish colleagues in the highest possible esteem, and you cannot cite any evidence whatever to suggest otherwise. Batatu's book on Iraq is unsurpassed and unsurpassable, and the work of Isam al-Khafaji and Falih 'Abd al-Jabbar is indispensable to an understanding of contemporary Iraqi realities. The work of Malik Mufti ( Sovereign Creations ...) is the best exposure of the utter nonsense of Ba'thism; the list can go on and on. Please do not insult my intelligence by putting about this childish idea that someone like myself does not respect and make use of the work of Arab scholars. But I would also say that the work of Charles Tripp, Pierre-Jean Luizard, Phebe Marr (just!) and Toby Dodge, all of which is based on primary materials, cannot be ignored simply because the authors are Westerners. This is so elementary that I am amazed I even have to state it.

Thus it is not unexpected (by me at least) that Joel Beinin would not reply to you; first because of apparent arrogance (as can be seen from his remark to Peter Sluglett), and second because he would never admit his ignorance or that he only copied from other sources. I have seen this many, many times in my years of work and research in Finland. Who is copying what from whom, exactly ? Beinin has written pioneering work on Zionism and the Palestinians, and (as a Jew in America) has been standing up courageously to attacks from Zionists all his academic life. He doesn't need or deserve this kind of baseless criticism.

Peter Sluglett, says that he "has been working on 19th and 29th century Iraqi history for the last 30 years". If his replies are a reflection of what he knows and teaches, then he does not know much and the last 30 years have been sheer waste… Have you read Britain in Iraq 1914-1932? Have you read Marion Farouk-Sluglett and Peter Sluglett, Iraq since 1958: from Revolution to Dictatorship (3rd edition, 2001)? If you have, and have substantive criticism of the points made in them, fine. If not, what's the point of the discussion? I notice you are not make any specific criticisms.
Sluglett also relies on the Ottoman censuses as "the most reliable sources we have", yet a few paragraphs later he completely disregards the Ottoman's "reliable sources" and says that Iraq was not called Iraq, and that the name Iraq "referred only to the provinces of Baghdad and Basra!". What was the land called then? The Ottomans, when they conquered Iraq after the fall of the Abbasid Empire, divided it into the (Wilayet) governorates of Baghdad, Mosul and Basrah. Not completely so; see Andreas Birken, Die Provinzen des Osmanischen Reiches (Wiesbaden, 1976). This shows that the names and boundaries of the wilayas changed frequently at different times; thus there was sometimes a province of Shahrizor, etc etc.

The Wali (governor) of each Wilayet was autonomous, but the Wali of Baghdad had authority over the other two Walis, making him the semi-sovereign ruler of Iraq. The name Iraq existed already when the Muslims entered it in 634 AD. OK, The 'Iraq of the medieval Arab geographers (e.g. al-Mas'udi etc) referred to an area extending southwards from al-Haditha on the Euphrates and from Takrit on the Tigris. The area immediately to the north of 'Iraq, bounded by the Euphrates to the west, the Byzantine empire to the north, the province of Armaniya to the north east, and the provinces of Azarbayjan and al-Jibal to the east, was called al-Jazira. See the maps in The Atlas of Islamic History of the Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden, Brill, pp. 20-21. Under the Ottomans, there was no single administrative entity called 'Iraq' which corresponds to the boundaries of the modern state. (For the evolution of the boundaries of the various Ottoman provinces, see Birken, 1976). Before the First World War and during the Mesopotamia campaign (southern) Iraq was referred to as 'Turkish Arabia' in British official correspondence. Please try to understand that I am NOT trying to make a political point, I am just stating the facts as I know them.
Yet when it comes to issues like Kuwait and Iraq's claims over it, suddenly the Ottoman's sources disappear, and no reference is made to the fact that the whole East Coast of Arabia down to Oman was part of the Wilayet of Basra until the fall of the Ottomans and the British occupation of Iraq after WW1! Selective morality would you say, or just immorality? Actually, this is not so: I attach two articles which show that this is not the case. In simple terms, Kuwait never paid any tax to Constantinople, and while the Shaykhs of Kuwait were given Ottoman titles (qaimaqam) from time to time, this was also true of the Amirs of Najd -- so do we conclude from this that Najd is part of the wilaya of Basra !!?? In any case, it's quite clear, in 1938, 1961, and 1990, no significant number of Kuwaitis wanted to be part of Iraq !

I was surprised to hear Naseem Rejwan stating that Sunni Arabs continued to be masters and landlords for quite a few centuries. What is surprising about that ? If I am correct, then he is either the son or nephew of the late Salim Rejwan, a millionaire of his time in Baghdad who died in the mid 1950s. He was a landowner, and in fact the market area in al-Masbah posh district in Baghdad is still called (Souq Rejwan!)… According to Salim's son, Ishaq, his father told them to leave Iraq after his death since things were going to get bad, and so they left to Europe and the US. Ishaq was happy to note that they still spoke Arabic at home and considered themselves Iraqis … There were other rich Jews in Iraq, and I don't personally know of any poor Jew during the years I lived in Iraq from the 1950s until the early 1980s; not my friends, classmates or neighbors! As almost all Iraqi Jews (except the wealthiest) had been effectively expelled to Israel in 1950-51, it is not surprising that you didn't meet any poor ones. I suggest you read Abbas Shiblak, Iraqi Jews: a History of Mass Exodus (2005), to which I have written the preface (and I attach it).

The feudal masters in Iraq's agricultural middle and south were predominantly Shi'i…Of course: see Marion Farouk-Sluglett and Peter Sluglett, 'The Transformation of Land Tenure and Rural Social Structure in Central and Southern Iraq, 1870-1958', International Journal of Middle East Studies, 15, 1983, pp. 491-505.

Joel Beinin writes: "Moreover, in Iraq pan-Arabism was associated with the continuing dominance of the Sunni Arab minority…"

Pan-Arabism in the Arab World was in reality pioneered by Christian Arabs not Muslims; people like Constantin Zureiq and Michel Aflaq. Negib Azouri, a Christian Arab edited the journal L'indépendance Arabe in Paris before the First World War. His "Réveil de la Nation Arabe dans l'Asie Turque…" (1905) was the first open demand for the secession of the Arab lands from the Ottoman Empire… We all know that as well; you are not paying attention to what JB is saying. Yes, the first secessionist authors were Christian, but in Iraq in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, this idea was largely carried by Sunnis like Sati' al-Husri. The Christians you mention were not Iraqis. Writing on Arab nationalism IN IRAQ is largely by Sunnis. Apart from Fadhil Jamali, I can't think of many Iraqi Shi'i writers on Arab nationalism.

Then I would like to discuss what Sluglett wrote on 22 January 2007:

"The only thing I want to add to this 'debate' is that no scholar, by which I mean people like 'Abd al-Jabbar, Batatu, Davis, al-Khafaji, Marr, Tripp, etc who write books about Iraq with footnotes (!) would disagree with the general proposition that there are more Shiis than Sunnis in Iraq. " OK, so what's your counter-evidence ?

"In 1920-21 the British allied with powerful groups and individuals within the minority Sunni element (those who had been part of or partners of the Ottoman ruling class) and helped them to rule the new Iraqi state (adding some new elements like Nuri and his ex-Sharifian officer colleagues). What is important here is that although this was so, the rulers of Iraq until the Ba'th Mark II in 1968 were not interested in playing the sectarian card, i.e. that they may have been Sunnis, but the legacy of the gradually secularising Ottoman state in the late 19th century meant that they themselves did not care one way or the other."

That is not true which part is not true? and in fact the British allied themselves with both Shi'i and Sunni tribal heads yes, ok, but the Shii tribal leaders were never part of the Ottoman ruling class , especially in the south of Iraq. If Sluglett first claims that all the South is Shi'i, with whom did the British ally in that area then? Wasn't eg. Sheikh Muhammed al-Uraiby of Amara a Shi'i? Do you see the contradiction? Of course some Shii tribal leaders were also coopted by the British, but the fact is that very few Shiis held positions in government (until Salih Jabr and Jamali). You have to look at what I'm actually saying, not at what you think I'm saying


However, there is the fact that the Shi'is refused to cooperate with the British occupation, boycotted the elections in the early 1920s, after having rebelled against the British when Najaf was bombed with chemical weapons in 1918; something I am sure Sluglett and his colleagues know well. Sheikh Mahdi al-Khalisi's call for boycott received support from among Christians and Jews and thus angered the British Civil Commissioner in Baghdad Sir Percy Cox. When in 1921 the new State opened the door for employment, al-Khalisi issued a religious Fatwa making working for the state Haram (forbidden). This is the reason why Shi'is were marginalized in Iraq for over 80 years; not because others wanted to but because they themselves did not want to be in the service of the State in the first place. At last something I can agree with in part, although I think 80 years is a bit long -- the spread of education and the gradual economic development of Iraq meant that there were increasing numbers of Shiis in senior positions in the bureaucracy (though never in the military) by, say, the late 1950s. And this was because of growing secularisation, i.e. that people began to find these sectarian distinctions less important (maku farq bayna ...) although that would come back later on.

"Then In the late 1960s/early 1970s, however, Saddam Husayn made sectarian affilation into an issue by expelling Shiis on the grounds that they were 'really' Iranian, first the Fa'ilis and later Shii Arabs. Since religious opposition was essentially all there was or could be in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, SH began to persecute these opposition organisations, whose membership was mostly Shii. And so on ."

Sluglett can not even get his time periods correct, let alone the context.

Saddam Hussein was not sectarian and in fact very secular. Did I say he was sectarian? I am sure he was an atheist !! For him, loyalty to the Party and to himself (as the embodiment of the Ba'th itself) was the only criteria. The Ba'th Party's majority membership was Shi'i, not Sunni! What does that matter? Everyone had to join the party !! How many Shiis were there in the RCC after 1979 ?


The deportation of Iraqis with Persian dependency took place in two batches: late 1979 and 1982, and NOT in the early 1970s! But 40,000 Fa'ili Kurds were expelled in the autumn of 1971 (see Charles Tripp, A History of Iraq, p. 211). The people were not deported because they were Shi'is as is alleged, but the act (which I completely oppose and condemn) was political, intended to put pressure on the Iranian government by sending tens of thousands of people who themselves chose to be considered of Persian dependency. But these Shiis were considered Persian, weren't they? He told Iraqis that those expelled were Persians, didn't he? Weren't men encouraged to divorce their Shii wives ?


After all, how can a "wog" teach a Westerner what is right and what is wrong?? You must be confusing me with Bernard Lewis, whom I detest !!


Peter Sluglett
January 29, 07
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
The reply below includes Sluglett's quotes in GREEN bold.
Dear Peter Sluglett,

People start their message by properly addressing the individual to whom they are writing. This belongs to politeness and social skills. That is how I was raised and how I have raised my children!

Your reply was no surprise though. You came out as if you were correcting some essay written by one of your students, dismissing all arguments that do not suit you, albeit in a selective way! That was no surprise either…

Batatu's book on Iraq is unsurpassed and unsurpassable, and the work of Isam al-Khafaji and Falih 'Abd al-Jabbar is indispensable to an understanding of contemporary Iraqi realities.

I do not doubt the importance of the great work of Hanna Batatu, nor do I intend to dismiss it as some would like to. However I do not hold it as infallible or the absolute truth about Iraqi realities. Batatu wanted to analyze the social structure of modern Iraq and its relation to politics, but he sometimes failed in proving his thesis since the social categories did not always conform with the political behavior of their supposed members. His emphasis on the importance and role of the Communist Party in Iraqi politics is exaggerated and offline as history has proven. This is perhaps because of Batatu´s (and seemingly also your) sympathy with Communists or leftists of Iraq. Batatu was not very successful in his attempts to prove the existence of a relation between political activity and social class or ethnicity. I find it strange of him to list the sect of members of the central committees of the communist party, when religion was of no essence to them.

I do not understand why you believe that the work of Isam al-Khafaji and Falih Abdul-Jabbar is “indispensable to an understanding of contemporary Iraqi realities.” Since like you state “only trained historians can write history books”, then none of them is qualified to write such books! None of them is a political analyst or “trained” historian; both Falih and Isam being social scientists though Isam teaches political economy. What they have in common between them (and with you also) is an unexplainable hatred for the Ba’th Party and Ba’thism about which you wrote (..the farrago of nonsense, mostly poisonous nonsense, that it now seems (and to me at least, has always seemed) to be). The second thing that unites you (at least with Falih) is an unshakable worship of Batatu’s analysis, and that seems to be enough to make those gentlemen’s work indispensable!

Falih Abdul-Jabbar was an obscure journalist living in Syria in the 1980s on support from the communist party, until 1988 when the party stopped its financial support of its members and ordered them to seek asylum in other countries, and he went to England. Prior to that, he had had no known academic work nor any publications that would entitle him to the position he is put in, apart from knowing Batatu’s book by heart! He somehow got acquainted with Sami Zubaida (probably through some of the Iraqi communists in London) who helped him secure his place at SOAS (about which I won’t even bother to comment), complete his doctorate, after which the CIA (and some say the Mossad) took him under its wings and gave him the reputation he has. Falih moved from Marxism-Leninism to working for the CIA which is building him a research centre in Beirut as is rumored.

He reminds me very much of my old classmate Kanaan Makiya (another favorite of yours it seems) who wrote two books about Iraq’s political issues even though he had left Iraq in 1967 at the age of 17 (before the Ba’th even came to power) and before that had had no political activities or political interests whatsoever…

Isam al-Khafaji, was also recruited by the CIA and participated in workshops on post-Saddam transitions throughout 2002, worked in the Iraq Reconstruction and Development Council, advised the Bush administration throughout 2002 and much of 2003, then became the director of Iraq Revenue Watch, whose Chairman is George Soros! Does that activity arouse any suspicion?

Needless to say, both Falih and Isam lost their credibility not only when they agreed to be in the service of their country’s invader and implement his policies, but mainly because their analyses proved to be completely faulty. None of the issues they advocated (and advised the US administration on) proved right and they ended up themselves criticizing the administration. Should anyone anymore believe they are capable of giving correct and sensible analyses of Iraqi realities, when their previous ones were faulty?

I have nothing personal against the two gentlemen, but I am stating facts about their history and their affiliations and their analyses.

And since “as historians, we can only use the writings of other historians, newspapers, the archives of governments, courts, etc..”, then what makes your writings or that of any other who copies from other sources ”genuine work” or “indispensable”?

The work of Malik Mufti (Sovereign Creations ...) is the best exposure of the utter nonsense of Ba'thism; the list can go on and on. Please do not insult my intelligence by putting about this childish idea that someone like myself does not respect and make use of the work of Arab scholars. But I would also say that the work of Charles Tripp, Pierre-Jean Luizard, Phebe Marr (just!) and Toby Dodge, all of which is based on primary materials, cannot be ignored simply because the authors are Westerners. This is so elementary that I am amazed I even have to state it.

I have not read Malik Mufti’s book (Sovereign Creations..), but his criticism of Pan-Arabism (which seems to be the common denominator between the colleagues you mentioned and yourself) is his opinion, and his analysis is based on his observations which I do not share. Everything he writes applies in a stronger way to Leftist and Communist movements in the Arab World. Practically the whole Communist Party of Iraq, from the Politbureau down to the lowest cadres has switched from working for the KGB to working for the CIA now…. Why then don’t I see any similar detest for them as you do pan-Arabists?

Your respect to Arab scholars seems to be based on three principles: that they oppose pan-Arabism, that they hate Ba’thism and that they believe unshakably in Batatu! In short, that they agree with you!

Your hate of Ba’thism goes beyond my understanding since you don’t seem to have lived in Iraq, you are not a member of a minority in Iraq or Syria, and you have not experienced it or suffered from it. Basing your opinion of a major political movement in the Arab World on what you read from Mufti, Abdul Jabbar or Khafaji is not a credit to your academic professionalism of which you are proud. You have even criticized Batatu for not being strongly critical of the Ba’th! Is Kurdish nationalism in your opinion also “poisonous nonsense”?

Mufti’s work for the Washington Institute (!) puts him in the same category with Falih and Khafaji; perhaps that is your criteria of what a good scholar is…

Who is copying what from whom, exactly ? Beinin has written pioneering work on Zionism and the Palestinians, and (as a Jew in America) has been standing up courageously to attacks from Zionists all his academic life. He doesn't need or deserve this kind of baseless criticism.

I was referring to Beinin’s refraining to answer, and when he answered it was a single line with several that contain his credentials. We were talking about Iraq and its political and sectarian structure, not about Beinin’s knowledge of Palestine or Zionism. Since Beinin is not an expert on Iraq, the only conclusion is that he has copied his information from somewhere else. Beinin’s reference to Mesopotamia and the reliance on Batatu (again!!) proves this… And you also admit that as historians you “can only use the writings of other historians, newspapers, the archives of governments, courts, etc.” So what do you mean who copies from whom?

Have you read Britain in Iraq 1914-1932? Have you read Marion Farouk-Sluglett and Peter Sluglett, Iraq since 1958: from Revolution to Dictatorship (3rd edition, 2001)? If you have, and have substantive criticism of the points made in them, fine. If not, what's the point of the discussion? I notice you are not making any specific criticisms.

I was not referring to what books you have written, but to the reply that you sent to Wafaa, which contained mistakes and biased opinions that no one should make; especially not one who claims to be an expert on Iraq. Your knowledge of the history of Arabs in Iraq and of Iraq’s ancient history is non-existent, as a simple reading of Hitti’s History of the Arabs will tell you…How can one analyze the present without knowing the past?

Not completely so; see Andreas Birken, Die Provinzen des Osmanischen Reiches (Wiesbaden, 1976). This shows that the names and boundaries of the wilayas changed frequently at different times; thus there was sometimes a province of Shahrizor, etc etc.
That does not change the fact that when the Ottomans came and conquered, the land was called Iraq. In fact Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib refers to it in his speeches as Iraq, and that was the 7th Century AD! The names and boundaries of the states of the US have changed several times, so does that make the land less of a United States? Does that apply also to Israel who does not even have officially recognized borders?

OK, The ‘Iraq of the medieval Arab geographers (e.g. al-Mas'udi etc) referred to an area extending southwards from al-Haditha on the Euphrates and from Takrit on the Tigris. The area immediately to the north of ‘Iraq, bounded by the Euphrates to the west, the Byzantine empire to the north, the province of Armaniya to the north east, and the provinces of Azarbayjan and al-Jibal to the east, was called al-Jazira. See the maps in The Atlas of Islamic History of the Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden, Brill, pp. 20-21. Under the Ottomans, there was no single administrative entity called ‘Iraq’ which corresponds to the boundaries of the modern state. (For the evolution of the boundaries of the various Ottoman provinces, see Birken, 1976). Before the First World War and during the Mesopotamia campaign (southern) Iraq was referred to as ‘Turkish Arabia’ in British official correspondence. Please try to understand that I am NOT trying to make a political point, I am just stating the facts as I know them.
Again that does not change the fact that when the Muslims entered Iraq in 623 AD, the land was already called Iraq. The name probably comes from the name (URUK) of the Akkadians, and the habit of ancient Semites was to call the whole land by the name of its major city… Even before the Ottoman time, none of today’s states was recognized as entities that correspond to the boundaries of the modern state. If Iraq was not called Iraq, what was the land called then? Did any of its neighbors call it Mesopotamia?
The border between Iraq and Iran was first established in a general agreement in1639 known as the Treaty of Zohab between Persia and the Ottoman Empire, with further additional treaties where details were clarified. The final treaty, known as the Delimitation Commission Agreement, established Iran's current border in 1914with Iraq and the Ottoman Empire. That should be enough to show that, though the name Iraq perhaps was not mentioned (I am not sure of that either), the entity did exist and its borders recognized.

Actually, this is not so: I attach two articles which show that this is not the case. In simple terms, Kuwait never paid any tax to Constantinople, and while the Shaykhs of Kuwait were given Ottoman titles (qaimaqam) from time to time, this was also true of the Amirs of Najd -- so do we conclude from this that Najd is part of the wilaya of Basra !!??

Whether Najd paid or did not pay any taxes to Constantinople has no bearing on its being part of Iraq, nor does the fact that the Shayks of Kuwait not paying taxes change its history. I am surprised that a scholar whose job is to research and verify facts, bases conclusions on flimsy grounds like this. The history of Iraq DID not start with the Ottomans or the British; it is thousands of years older than the British or the Ottomans, and whether or not this side or that recognized something or not does not change the history of Iraq which predates the existence of the invaders. The as-Sabah family itself was a relatively new comer to the area and the story of how Mubarak came to rule is no secret!

At no time until the beginning of the 20th century had there been a political entity of any form on the western side of the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Basra; not even after the arrival of the Colonialists to the Gulf. As late as 1909, and after the British have established themselves in the Basra Wilayet, the Ottoman state described it thus in its administrative division of Iraq:

The Basrah Wilayet:Located in the south of Iraq, bordered on the north by the Baghdad Wilayet, east by Iran, south by the Gulf and Ihsa’ and west by Shammar mountain and Syria. Area estimated to be 128,800 sq.km. It is subdivided into four counties: Basrah – the capitol of the Wilayet, Muntafig, Najd, and Imarah, consisting of some thirteen cities, thirty-two towns and 315 villages distributed as follows:

County City
Basrah Basrah, Qurnah, Fao, Kuwait

Muntafig Nasiriyah, Suk as-Shiukh, Shatra Muntafig, Hay

Najd Hufuf, Qatif, Qatar, Riyadh

Imarah Imarah, Shatrah Imarah, Jahlah, Majer Kabeer, Ali Gharbi


You will note that as late as 1909, not only Kuwait but also Qatar, Riyadh and Qatif were part of Basrah! But I note that these facts are known to you and included in your article. So what are you contesting?

In 1961, the British Embassy in Lebanon cabled the following message to the Foreign Office:

July 8, 1961
Sir M. Crosthwaite
“Iraqi Prime Minister, Abdel Karim Kassem, has decided to seek the annexation of the former Basra Governorate of Iraq, usually reliable sources said here today. The Basra Governorate, which was under Ottoman rule, includes the Districts of Katif and Ahsa’a, which now form part of Saudi Arabia and are rich in oil fields.”
[Emphasis added]

I suggest you read Zaki Saleh’s book (Britain and Iraq/ A study in British Foreign Affairs), where you will find more similar references from British files. For example, on March 21, 1902, the British Foreign Secretary, the Marquess of Lansdowne, summed up British policy towards the Sheikh of Kuwait and other Sheiks in the Gulf in the following Memorandum (part of which you also quote in your article, but I put it here to clarify the point):

"The situation at Koweit is becoming more and more embarrassing, and the time has come for looking it in the face. We have saddled ourselves with an impossible client in the person of the sheikh. He is apparently an untrustworthy savage, no one knows where his possessions begin and end, and our obligations towards him are as ill-defined as the boundaries of his Principality. We have distinctly announced that he does not enjoy British ‘protection’; on the other hand, we once made him a present of 1,000£, and promised him our ‘good offices’, whatever that may mean. When we made this promise we were, I feel no doubt, thinking of Koweit proper, if there is such a thing, and not of Boobyan or other outskirts over which the Sheikh has rights of one sort or another. We have up to the present sheltered ourselves not unsuccessfully, during our discussion with the Turks on the one side and foreign Governments on the other, behind the plausible announcement that we desire to maintain the status quo in regard to Koweit. But I doubt whether any one really knows what the status quo is…”

Does that give the impression that Kuwait was an independent political entity that was not part of the Ottoman Empire, or that the whole of today’s Kuwait is legitimate?

The arguments you have in your article all relate to the 19th and early 20th centuries, as if the history of Kuwait only started with the arrival of the British to the Gulf. How about before that? Do you have any other sources that prove that Kuwait was any sort of entity in that area, say in the 18th or 17th centuries? And if there are no sources, can one safely conclude that it did not exist as an entity?

In any case, it's quite clear, in 1938, 1961, and 1990, no significant number of Kuwaitis wanted to be part of Iraq !

In 1938, King Ghazi of Iraq used the issue of Kuwait as a rallying point for his people, both inside Iraq and Kuwait (then still under British rule), against British domination. He installed a radio station in his palace and played on the nationalist fervor to call for the return of Kuwait. The Consultative Council on Kuwait, appointed by the Sheikh, voted twice against the British will, to unite with Iraq and called on King Ghazi to take over their land. The British reply was swift: the council was dismissed some of its members were imprisoned and others deported! King Ghazi died in a mysterious car accident. His companions in the car disappeared and his corpse was kept by Dr. Henderson, the British appointed monarch’s physician, between the accident and the burial. A central demand of the Hashemite Union of 1957 was the return of Kuwait, as did Qassim in 1961 and Saddam in 1990. It is not clear at all that a significant number of Kuwaitis did not want to be part of Iraq, as you stated. The policy of intimidation, imprisonment and deportation was repeated against any dissent, and after the end of the Iraqi invasion in 1991, people were sentenced to death simply for writing articles in support of uniting with Iraq. We have no statistics or any independent opinion polls that support your claim.

I was surprised to hear Naseem Rejwan stating that Sunni Arabs continued to be masters and landlords for quite a few centuries. What is surprising about that ?

My surprise was because Jews were also landlords which Naseem left out… Actually Naseem has replied, stating that: “exact or even approximate figures on this subject [Shi’i and Sunni] are nowhere to be found; nor do such statistics exist for the matter of that (and this, incidentally, proves part of your, and Wafaa's argument that the whole subject of who was a Sunni and who a Shi'i was not a central preoccupation, at least during the 1920's through the 1950's.”

As almost all Iraqi Jews (except the wealthiest) had been effectively expelled to Israel in 1950-51, it is not surprising that you didn't meet any poor ones. I suggest you read Abbas Shiblak, Iraqi Jews: a History of Mass Exodus (2005), to which I have written the preface (and I attach it).

No Jews were expelled from Iraq and the use of the word “effectively” does not change the matter. I suggest you try to find an English copy of the Law which gave the Jews of Iraq the right to leave in return for giving up their citizenship. As you point out in your introduction to Shiblak’s book, the British were certainly behind the law. Very few Jews left, until the Zionists started a terror campaign against Jewish Synagogues and businesses. That is well explained by Naem Giladi, himself an Iraqi Jew in his book and on the internet. Why is the forceful expulsion of the Palestinians compared with the departure of the Jews from Iraq?

Let us not forget the support of the Iraqi Communist Party to the establishment of Israel which the Government of Baghdad skillfully used against communists.
We all know that as well; you are not paying attention to what JB is saying. Yes, the first secessionist authors were Christian, but in Iraq in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, this idea was largely carried by Sunnis like Sati' al-Husri. The Christians you mention were not Iraqis. Writing on Arab nationalism IN IRAQ is largely by Sunnis. Apart from Fadhil Jamali, I can't think of many Iraqi Shi'i writers on Arab nationalism.

JB wrote “"Moreover, in Iraq pan-Arabism was associated with the continuing dominance of the Sunni Arab minority…" . People like Sati’ al-Husri were theorists not imposers of any ideologies. Besides,is as you stated the Sunnis were the major part of the Ottoman ruling class, why would Sunnis revolt against the Ottomans whose favors they enjoyed?

How about the 1920 revolt led by Sheikh Mahdi al-Khalisi and other Arab Shi’i leaders? The gist of the matter is that sectarianism was of no essence, as the 1920 revolt proved when Shi’is and Sunnis came together against the invader. I explained the refusal of Shi’is (under a religious fatwa) to get involved in state affairs and this effected even their involvement in politics. However, I am sure you know that the earlier cells of the Ba’th Party in Iraq in the late 1940s contained active Shi’is with people like Fouad ar-Rikabi and Sa’doun Hammadi in the front.

"The only thing I want to add to this 'debate' is that no scholar, by which I mean people like 'Abd al-Jabbar, Batatu, Davis, al-Khafaji, Marr, Tripp, etc who write books about Iraq with footnotes (!) would disagree with the general proposition that there are more Shiis than Sunnis in Iraq."
OK, so what's your counter-evidence ?

I refer to the reply of Naseem, and to the fact that all figures given are estimates based on beliefs relating to this area or that. No statistics exist and thus no one can say for certain which is larger. What you present is not evidence for me to present counter-evidence.

That is not true which part is not true? and in fact the British allied themselves with both Shi'i and Sunni tribal heads yes, ok, but the Shii tribal leaders were never part of the Ottoman ruling class.
I find it interesting when you cut a sentence I have written in half and comment on the first half as if it does not connect to the one after it. It is not true that the British allied themselves with the Sunni elements, and you should also know that the Shi’is accepted Faisal as King because he was a Hashemite and a descendant of the Prophet, while the Sunnis had their own candidate (Talib an-Naqib) whom Britain rejected, imprisoned and exiled.

Of course some Shii tribal leaders were also coopted by the British, but the fact is that very few Shiis held positions in government (until Salih Jabr and Jamali). You have to look at what I'm actually saying, not at what you think I'm saying

I explained why the Shi’is refused to take positions in government. Taking positions is not, to my understanding, allying with the British. The fact that the Shi’is accepted Faisal and the Sunnis rejected him should serve to show that the Shi’is DID ally with the British, if things were as black and white as you would like to present them.

At last something I can agree with in part, although I think 80 years is a bit long -- the spread of education and the gradual economic development of Iraq meant that there were increasing numbers of Shiis in senior positions in the bureaucracy (though never in the military) by, say, the late 1950s. And this was because of growing secularization, i.e. that people began to find these sectarian distinctions less important (maku farq bayna ...) although that would come back later on.

I am glad you agree on that….

Saddam Hussein was not sectarian and in fact very secular. Did I say he was sectarian? I am sure he was an atheist !!


So what did you mean by saying “Saddam Husayn made sectarian affilation into an issue by expelling Shiis on the grounds that they were 'really' Iranian..”? Was that not implying that he was sectarian?

What does that matter? Everyone had to join the party !! How many Shiis were there in the RCC after 1979 ?

No, not everyone had to join the party. I did not, yet still held a good position in the University of Technology from 1974-1977and was further appointed rapporteur of the Higher Committee of the University of Technology, but I refused, resigned and left Iraq to pursue my higher education. Nothing happened to me and no one threatened me or forced me. Of course members of the Party had more privileges, but that happens anywhere where there is a single-party system. Those who joined the Ba’th party wanted to benefit and reach higher, something I consider hypocritical. Some of those in the current government did that too…

In a tribal community like Iraq, when people group together to form political movements, they try to find relatives and close friends, and people from the same tribe, to join in their effort. I don’t believe the formation of the RCC after 1979 had anything to do with sectarianism, and there were Shi’is and Sunnis in it, if that is what you meant. Those executed or imprisoned in the 1979 purge of the party were both Shi’is and Sunnis. So what is your point?
But 40,000 Fa'ili Kurds were expelled in the autumn of 1971 (see Charles Tripp, A History of Iraq, p. 211). But these Shiis were considered Persian, weren't they? He told Iraqis that those expelled were Persians, didn't he?

I think that to say “these Shiis were considered Persian” is a sentence that contains a malicious insinuation and intends to distort things. Why the emphasis on the sectarian affiliation of the Faylis and not their ethnic background? It seems what you want to say is that the people were deported because they were Shi’is and their Persian background was used as an excuse. I don’t see on what you base that, apart from your bias against the Ba’th which seems to cloud your vision and make you jump into conclusions that fit your preconceptions.

The Faylis were deported (another deplorable decision) because they were considered Iranians not Iraqis and there is no proof that the deportation was because they were Shi’is. I don’t care what Tripp writes. The historian who states that Britain had “no intention of occupying Iraq in 1914” looses his credibility completely to me and is not worthy of the title historian. A historian’s duty is to facts not to political needs of that party or this. He can make whatever remarks he wants, but to me his remarks are worthless.

The Kurds themselves consider Faylis Persians and I would not be surprised if some of their leaders (Talabani?) had a hand in their expulsion. And if Iraqis were told that these Faylis were Persian, does that confirm your claim that the deportation was because of their sect?

Weren't men encouraged to divorce their Shii wives ?

When was that and do you have any evidence to corroborate that? I would like to see this, as I know many, many Shi’i and Sunni married to each other and I have NEVER heard of such a claim..

You must be confusing me with Bernard Lewis, whom I detest !!

BL is considered "the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East" who is also a product of SOAS! I too detest him, but he is still considered an authority, like you consider Tripp, Falih Abdul Jabbar and Isam al-Khafaji.

Beauty, as we are told, is in the eye of the beholder…. Nothing is absolute and all is relative, depending on how you see it and where from you look at it. Mine is of the insider who looked from inside and now from the outside. Yours is the outsider who looks only from the outside. There is a difference between our viewpoints because of that.

Tarik Al-Ani
Architect / Researcher
January 30, 07