The Corner

Example of U.S. Diplomacy Alienating Iraqis

I’ve written in recent days about Iraqi President and PUK Leader Jalal Talabani’s efforts to close Hawlati, one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s only non-party-controlled newspapers. Several NGOs have also criticized Talabani for his flagrant abuse-of-power in this case.

Now, U.S. diplomats provide an example of how undemocratic governments use the State Department and selective engagement to suggest endorsement where none exists. Two U.S. diplomats visited the head of Talabani’s media and inadvertently, enabled him to suggest U.S. government support for the efforts to close down the newspaper and censor criticism.

No U.S. diplomats have visited Hawlati, however, for two years.

So, a question for U.S. diplomat Daniel McNicholas:

(1) Why have no diplomats visited the region’s independent paper for two years? (More ironic since Hawlati has a wider readership that the PUK’s newspaper).

(2) When will U.S. diplomats visit Hawlati to talk to the editor who may be jailed?

(3) Sometimes the PUK attributes statements to U.S. officials that they did not make, so please clarify: Do you condemn the shuttering of newspapers and the jailing of journalists for reporting on corruption or, as the PUK suggests, do you support such things?

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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