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Don't Call Us - We'll Call You, Al-Rishawi

The leader of the Iraq Awakening is still waiting for that call from an interested US broadcast news organization.


Yesterday in That Was Counterterrorism, Senator, I directly challenged Senator Obama’s assertions about ‘The Surge,’ specifically as it related to what is today the Iraq Awakening: Iraqis who took to their own defense against al-Qaeda - and for some time, without our proper support.

As much as a splash as the senator’s words made throughout the media - whether praise, echoes or scorn - it should be striking that no one in the American media circus following him through Iraq and the rest of the Middle East were inclined to perhaps speak to the leader of the Iraq Awakening. Yesterday, it was Barrack Obama under the glare here. Today, it’s the fawning US media which gives every appearance of lack of interest in understanding the situation and more interested in prescribing remedy regardless. This is unfortunate, and incredibly frustrating.

No major broadcast anchor lifted the phone to contact Sheikh Ahmad al-Rishawi, who met with Senator Obama, to inquire about the discussion from his perspective. He has a number and can be reached. But it is as if his views as the head of the Iraq Awakening - an important Iraqi living an Iraqi reality - just don’t matter. How else to explain it?

Leave it then to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya network to bother to ask al-Rishawi a single question. Below is a transcript of a three-minute phone call between the Saudi network and al-Rishawi, aired in Arabic by Al-Araibyah yesterday.

Note how the reporter [Azzam] continues to try and steer al-Rishawi back to justifying a concrete timetable, and how al-Rishawi consistently refuses. The concept of shaping a desired reality around a schedule in war is wholly illogical, as reality dictates ever-shifting chronological goals. That is, of course, if you want to win the war in question. The enemy, after all, is listening and has a say.

Following is the full translation of the interview:

“[Azzam] Does not this demand contradict the support that Obama received through statements by Iraqi political leaders on the importance to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops?

[Abu-Rishah] We stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces and security agencies in order to be able to protect the country after the US forces leave. We also stressed the need to provide economic and scientific support so as to rebuild infrastructure, which has been damaged because of wars. Thirdly, we stressed the importance of preserving the unity of the Iraqi people and land and denounce any plan to partition Iraq.

[Azzam] Excuse me, but cannot these requirements be met within a specific timetable for the withdrawal of US troops? Many countries depend on US military training and financial and economic support while US troops are not actually present on the ground.

[Abu-Rishah] As I told you, we stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces to be able to protect the country after the withdrawal of US troops. We also said it is necessary to implement the agreement between us and President George Bush on reinstating the former Iraqi Army on national and professional bases.

[Azzam] You say that the withdrawal should not take place unless the Iraqi forces are capable of taking control of the situation on the ground, while Obama speaks of withdrawal after two years. Does this mean you are pessimistic about the chances of the Iraqi forces taking control of the situation on the ground?

[Abu-Rishah] If things go seriously, the Iraqi forces can be built within a year. In the Iraqi war [word indistinct]. We used to form brigades in the army within months. Should things go seriously, the Iraqi Army would be built in a year. In the present, we do not have an army that can protect the country after the US forces leave. This army is not capable enough. We need to support this army by providing it with weapons and supplies. The Iraqi defence minister complains about the rise in the prices of weapons. Sometimes he takes weapons from Al-Ramadi. We want weapons from one country and the entire Iraqi Army should be trained on these weapon. It is not right to have part of the army trained on weapons from Al-Ramadi while the other part trained on Italian weapons, for example. We want weapons from the US Army that can be effectively used to protect the country, and the Iraqi Army should be fully trained on these weapons.”

Originally published by Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic 1504 22 Jul 08.

Why wasn’t anyone in the American Media Parade curious enough to pick up the phone and speak to al-Rishawi? He was sufficiently important for Obama to have a face-to-face with. Were they satisfied that campaign spokesmen already told them what they needed (and thus you needed) to know?

This whole episode is revealing itself as a gross under-service to the American public, with a candidate seemingly working hard to mold reality into his desired solution and a major media entourage that is either wholly disinterested or grossly uninformed about the subject matter they are presenting to the public.

And one wonders why the American public is so under-informed or mis-informed and generally unaware. Whose fault is that?