Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Clean-up in Column Seven…

It seems that I was not the only one to take issue with Jihad Al-Khazen’s reference to Iraq’s Minister of Interior, Bayan Jabr, as an Arab-Persian “mutt.” Khazen writes today in Al-Hayat under “Solagh…and e-mails” that he’s been getting responses all throughout the week on this topic; half on his side, and the others upbraiding him. The latter bunch claim that Al-Khazin wrote what he wrote because he carries a grudge against Shias. Al-Khazin responded along the lines of “some of my best friends are Shias...” and expressed his hope that the young Shia leader Muqtada Al-Sadr would rule Iraq one day.

This is the most widely read Arab commentator in print, who gets his paycheck from the Saudi owners of Al-Hayat, and is considered the personal mouthpiece of the new Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Turki Al-Faisal. Al-Khazen is openly championing the Shia warlord who had been responsible for killing American soldiers in Iraq. Of course, it is a tongue-in-cheek quip meant to be dismissive of the Shias and at the same time take a jab at SCIRI--Jabr's political party and Al-Sadr's rival.

Hey, don’t blame Al-Khazen if he can get away with it; apparently Karen Hughes—now in charge of America’s public diplomacy—is too busy to pick-up the phone and tell the recently-arrived Prince Turki to keep his yelping puppies on a tighter leash. Maybe the allegedly frugal Hughes doesn't realize that it's a local call now.

Here’s the only part of the column where we learn something useful: Al-Khazin got a snail mail letter from Nassir Al-Shather, who wrote: “Baqir Solagh Jabr is from Amara [Province] indeed, which was re-named Maysan [Province] under the Ba’athists…The word ‘Solagh’ is in common usage in Iraq’s rural south although I don’t know what it means, just like the word ‘Sayhoud’ is another common name and means shallow water. In this countryside, there are many unusual names that may not have a meaning like Shaghaty, Shalakeh, Shinyor, Hanoun, Menati, Sengour, Shibrim, Shenateh, Mahoud, and ‘Uougi...Even though I never met [Baqir Solagh] but I knew his father and grandfather...And the man is from a family that belongs to the Wucheilat clan that is dispersed to the south and west of Amarah, and is part of the Arab Zubeid tribe.”


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