Thursday, November 22, 2007

That Disappearing Petition And The Media

By Cernig

Hardline U.S. rightwing blogs are beginning this evening to pick up a story about a petition in Iraq, organised by a hitherto unknown group called either the Independent National Democratic Tribes' Gathering or the Independent National Tribal Organization depending on which report you read, which condemns Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq.

The Washington Post writes:
"The Iranians, in fact, have taken over all of south Iraq," said a senior tribal leader from the south who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life. "Their influence is everywhere."

The unusually organized Iraqi rebuke illustrates the divisions that Iran has provoked among Iraq's majority Shiites. The prime minister and major political blocs are closely tied to Iran, but the petition organizers said many citizens are fiercely opposed to Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Several sheiks leading the campaign traveled to the capital from the southern province of Diwaniyah and showed The Washington Post and other news organizations an electronic file filled with images of signatures they said endorsed the petition. Their effort is being supported by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, or Mujaheddin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that is listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization but that nonetheless enjoys U.S. military protection in Iraq.

The petition, which the organizers said was signed by 600 sheiks, calls on the United Nations to send a delegation to investigate what it termed crimes committed by Iran and its proxies in southern Iraq.

"The most painful stab in the back of the Shiites in Iraq by the Iranian regime has been its shameful abuse of Shiite religion to achieve its ominous end," the sheiks said a statement. "The only solution and hopeful prospect for Iraq, and in particular the southern provinces, is the eviction of the Iranian regime from our homeland."
Hang on, I'm sure you're thinking, why is the Sheik so unwilling to be named if, presumably, his signature is already on this very public petition? And are so many Iraqis really willing to agree with the MeK, an organisation hated throughout Iraq for being Saddam's bully-boy henchmen?

Wait, there's more.

Reuters adds some more details. They saw "two thick bundles of notes which contained original signatures", not an electronic file, which was shown to them by the sheiks. At least, they say they are sheiks and that there are 600 of them.
The statement said that besides 600 Shi'ite tribal leaders, the petition was signed by a number of lawyers, engineers, doctors and university professors.

The group of sheikhs is the same one that told Reuters last month that Shi'ite Islamist political parties were imposing strict Islamic rules in southern Iraq and using their armed wings to create a state of fear.
And CNN adds even more:
The petition has the support of 14 members of the clergy and 600 sheiks. It also was signed by 25,000 women, the release stated.

"The most painful stab on the back of the Shiites in Iraq by the Iranian regime has been its shameful abuse of Shiite religion to achieve its ominous ends," the petition states.

The petition also is backed by the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran -- or Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) -- which seeks to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran.

MEK has been labeled a terrorist group by the United States, Iraq and Iran -- all for different reasons -- but it continues to operate in southern Iraq under the protection of the U.S. military despite Iraqi pressure to leave the country.

The United States considers the group a source of valuable intelligence on Iran.
And yet, of over 50 MeK claims about Iran's nuclear program over the past three years since the group first exposed that program, not one has proven true upon investigation by the IAEA. Maybe not so valuable intelligence after all. As to the "different reasons" for the groups description as being terrorists - the Iraqis labelled them for complicity in Saddam's crimes and are trying to have their protected status revoked, the Iranians accuse them of attacks inside Iran which have killed both soldiers and civilians, while the U.S. State Dept calls them terrorists because they killed US citizens and supported the taking of hostages at the US embassy in Teheran in 1979. All pretty good reasons, you might think, despite such a throwaway dismissal by CNN.

Finally, the Chinese newspaper People's Daily has even more, including more numbers:
"It is widely known that the Iranians have taken over all Iraq's southern provinces," said the Independent National Democratic Tribes' Gathering in a statement obtained by Xinhua on Thursday.

The statement said that more than 300,000 Iraqi Shiite Muslims in the Iraqi southern provinces have signed a petition accusing the neighboring Iran of fomenting violence and chaos in southern the war-torn country.

Among the signatories of the petition of the Shiites in southern Iraq are 14 clergies, 600 Sheikhs, 1250 jurists, 2,200 doctors, engineers, university professors and 25,000 women, the statement added.
That's a lot, isn't it?


It isn't as many as when this story was last hawked around, back in June. Then, according to the MeK's own website, it was 450,000 members of the Iraqi tribes of Diyala who were condemning Iran's presence as part and parcel of expressing "full solidarity with the Mujahideen Khalq (MEK)"


Even that is nothing compared to the attempt before that to hawk the self-same story. Back in June 2006, the MeK's political wing - the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which FOX News expert on Iran Alireza Jafarzadeh used to be spokesman for - announced that:
Solidarity Congress of Iraqi People announced the support of 5.2 million Iraqi's to a declaration condemning Iranian regime's meddling in their country. The declaration also lends support to People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran [The MeK's other alias - C] whose presence in Iraq has acted as a major obstacle to mullahs' fundamentalist ambitions in Iraq. The announcement was made before a huge crowd of Iraqis in Ashraf City on June 17.
Ashraf City, by the by, is the MeK's own name for "Camp Ashraf" - the rather salubrious location, situated conveniently close to iraq's biggest munitions dump - where thousands of MeK members are "guarded" by a handful of US and Bulgarian troops.

Back then, the breakdown of the notable signatories to the petition was even more admirable:
121 political parties and social groups, 700,000 women, 14,000 lawyers and jurists, 19,000 physicians, 35,000 engineers, 320 clerics, 540 professors, 2,000 tribal sheikhs and 300 local officials among 5.2 million signitaries of the declaration.
Maybe it was the claim that fully a third of Iraq's population had signed something supporting such an odious terror group that lead to general disbelief and the story sinking without a trace.

So either the folk supporting the MeK against an alleged infiltration of the Iraqi government from top to bottom are changing their minds - by the millions - or the latest version is just the MeK scaling down their entirely fictitious nonsense to a more believable level.

Were it not for the fact that anti-Iranian rhetoric is currently fashionable, and is being stirred at every opportunity by U.S. neoconservatives both in and out of the White House, this latest story would have sunk without a trace too.

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