Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Acknowledging Good Reporting

I feel compelled to issue a fatwa: Whereas in the past, the only New York Times reporter writing about Iraq that was worthy of praise, in my erudite opinion, was Sabrina Tavernise, I must say that the recent (...that is, past few months) bylines by Sam Dagher, Rod Nordland, and Campbell Robertson, have indicated a far more sober and reasoned reading of what is going on there. They sometimes write stuff that I take issue with, but on the whole it is very, very good. Certainly far better than what the paper gave us in the past.

Marc Santora, also of the NYTimes, does not measure up, and don't get me started on Ernesto Londono of the Washington Post, and pretty much the rest of the WaPo's coverage which lends itself to sensationalism and cynicism. The Los Angeles Times has never really registered with me as a must-read on Iraq, probably for good reason.

Even though I disagree fundamentally with his blatant activism, I would also take Nir Rosen's reporting (as opposed to his opinionating) very seriously. It is good to know that Hannah Allam (McClatchy) is back on the Iraq beat: depite a few misses, she's a stellar and highly credible reporter, which is why an error on her part gets magnified in my view. I can also trust that Eli Lake, over at the Washington Times, will always report the heck out of an Iraq story, and do it very well.

I don't watch much TV, so I don't know how the Iraq story is being reported there. I'd imagine it is shallow and superficial, given the target audience and air-time constraints.

Kenneth Pollack's most recent piece in the National Interest is thoughtful and compelling, even though I disagree with some of its key insights and recommendations. I always had good things to say about Colin Kahl, but unfortunately he has joined government (DoD), and his views will be far more guarded. Micheal O'Hanlon at Brookings is another person I disagree with often, but I'd think long and hard before refuting his well-contructed arguments.

Furthermore, I have a sense that as the Iraq debate becomes less of a shouting match, important nodes in the US government, even in such hopelessly partisan institutions such as the State Department and the CIA, are beginning to look at Iraq with calm and wise reflection. I've noticed a significant change in my daily interactions, and I am far more hopeful that this will result in a nuanced, far-reaching policy that understands what the New Iraq means to the rest of the region.

Among Iraq-focused Western bloggers, I haven't seen much improvement, or humility. Although Michael Collins Dunn at the Middle East Institute blog never fails to alert us to excellent arguments. Another emerging authority is Joel Wing (Musings on Iraq) who does a masterful job of compiling a narrative about Iraq that makes sense.

Most established Op-Ed writers don't seem to get it. The notable exception, of course, is Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, who's skill, insight and wit make me fume with envy. Moreover, one should always pay close attention to the writings of Salameh Nematt at The Daily Beast; no one has a better feel for emerging trends in the region than he does.

Needless to say, the beautiful words of Fouad Ajami and Bernard Lewis should be learnt by rote. What they offer is scripture, and I see myself a lowly disciple. There are also a crop of young academics writing about Iraq who I have very high hopes for. They shall revolutionize the field, and bring back honesty and modesty to scholarship. Andrew Exum (Abu Muqawama) comes to mind, as does Thomas Heggehammer, Truls Tonnessen and the rest of the Norwegian Mafia. Thankfully, there are many other to keep an eye on.

I'm issuing this fatwa because I don't see this blog surviving beyond the upcoming January elections. And so begins the process of me recommending other commentators for the loyal readers who'll continue to have a need for an Iraq kick. That doesn't mean that I will stop writing, rather I will be writing in Arabic for an Iraqi audience on another website.

It's a mixed bag, but at least the tone has changed in an important publication such as the NYTimes, and it can be relied upon to get a balanced story on Iraq in the future.

Fingers crossed.

Note: sometimes one takes for granted some of the people one admires, and in that vein, I like to include Bill Rogio (Long War Journal), Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Lee Smith in this fatwa.


Blogger Jason said...

What do you see for the future of Iraq after the January elections in terms of its politics, democracy, security, stability, relations with neighbors?

12:10 PM, September 08, 2009

Blogger Joel Wing said...

Thanks for mentioning my blog. I'm always amazed who reads my stuff. Joel

12:54 PM, September 08, 2009

Anonymous amagi said...


Say it ain't so! Your commentary has been, at times, the only credible source of information on Iraqi current events, well, anywhere. I understand the need to turn your attentions elsewhere, but I hope you will continue to pop up here to dismiss bogus reports, etc., if the need arises.

1:06 PM, September 08, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Nibras, for all you've done. You've been a rare sane (and uniquely informed) voice on Iraq for a long time.
You don't owe anyone anything, but if you quit the blog completely, you will only cheer those who have been rightly chastened and embittered by your words over the years. Maybe a post or two a month? Whatever you choose, thanks.

1:33 PM, September 08, 2009

Anonymous gilgamesh x / exile - iraqi said...

Mr. Kazimi,

what do you think of the insights given by Reidar Visser in historiae.org.

It is a glimpse in Iraq that makes a difference

1:47 PM, September 08, 2009

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi folks,

Thank you for your kind words, and I'm sure to be riled up by something from time to time that would prompt me to comment. The blog will remain up, for archival purposes. I feel by recommending these names, then I'm leaving you in competent hands.

Gilgamesh: Visser and others did not make this list for a reason. ;)



2:23 PM, September 08, 2009

Anonymous Bill Roggio said...

Thank you for the kind words, Nibras. I am honored to make the cut.

Talisman's Gate is a daily read for me, your insights are indispensable. I am hoping you might decide to hang in after January. If you decide to go, you will be sorely missed.

9:56 AM, September 09, 2009

Anonymous gj said...

Nibras, this is nothing short of disaster. Am sure I speak for many people when I say you were the one who kept me going through 2006.

As for your list of recommended replacements, can you itemise please:

(a)who among them speaks Arabic.
(b) who among them writes with authentic knowledge and understanding of the shia?
(c)who among them has Iraqi communist parents?
(d)who among them supports the arabs right to enjoy the democratic freedoms and protections available to those in the west?
(e) who among them debunks charlatans and hypocrites without fear or favor?
(f) who among them is proud to be a neo con?
(g) who among them has ever said that the overthrow of the Baath regime and its replacement with the first genuine democracy in the arab middle east was not just a triumph for all of those who participated in it but a momentous turning point in history and the modern world?

I could go on. But you get the message. Your voice is still needed.


3:49 AM, September 10, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you've been a blessing to all again,& thanks also for this.
When you move to an Arabic outlet,
is it possible we can find translations ? mit

7:24 PM, September 12, 2009

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Blogger Brian H said...

Bah! How can we have any respect for someone whose prose is so ungrammatical and who's unable to distinguish "whose" and "who's"????



Tell us, who is your audience in Arabic, generally, and what kind of response are you getting and hoping to get?

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