Friday, December 19, 2008

Saddam and the Shoe Thrower

From the Daily Beast blog:

Saddam and the Shoe Thrower

by Salameh Nematt

Did Saddam's daughter, who looted millions from Iraq, secretly fund both the shoe thrower and the bungled coup attempt?

New revelations in Iraq point to a possible link between the shoe thrower and the Iraqi Baathists who just made a botched attempt to topple the government of Nouri al-Maliki and return Saddam’s party to power.

Reports in the Arab media indicate that the Iraqi shoe thrower, Muntather al-Zaidi may have been planning his assault on President Bush for more than a year, helped by Iraqi Baathists seeking to overthrow the U.S,-backed government. One leading Arab website said the al-Zaidi’s handlers may have been funded by Raghad, the eldest daughter of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Raghad, who currently lives in self-exile in Jordan, is wanted in Iraq for funding terrorism and for looting billions from state funds on the eve of the 2003 war that toppled her father.

Dia’ al-Kanani, the judge investigating the shoe-throwing incident, said Thursday he turned down a request to release al-Zaidi on bail for security reasons, including fear for the suspect’s own security. He said there was a real threat he may be attacked.

An Iraqi government spokesman said al-Zaidi sent a letter to al-Maliki on Thursday asking for a pardon. The journalist described his own behavior as “an ugly act” and asked to be pardoned. There was no comment from the Iraqi government.

Al-Zeidi is a correspondent for al-Baghdadia, a pro-Baathist television station based in Cairo, Egypt, that some suspect is funded by Raghad. He could face two years imprisonment for the assault and for insulting Bush and al-Maliki.

Al-Zaidi’s brother, Uday, appealed to Iraq’s prominent Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani to convince the Iraqi government to release his brother. Uday said in a televised message that if his brother made a mistake, “I would be the first to admit it.” But he did not apologize.

The Iraqi government is still investigating this week’s failed coup attempt, in which 35 Iraqis, including four generals, were arrested, the New York Times reported.

Contrary to reports in the American and Arab media, readers’ comments on showed that eight out of 10 Arabs who responded on that site condemned the shoe attack as a shameful and unprofessional act.

The Arab world’s leading political columnist, Hazem Saghia, writing in the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper, said Thursday it was “ironic that after living nearly a third of a century under Saddam Hussein’s boots, an Iraqi decides to throw his shoes at the person who removed Saddam from power.”

Saghia said that after all is said and done, “Bush came to Iraq, signed the security agreement he wanted, and left after casually taking note of al-Zaidi’s show size. Thus, we’re even. He got what he wanted, and we’re left with shoes that missed their target. Perhaps we deserve to be ruled by someone like Saddam Hussein.”

Earlier piece on shoe-gate by the author.

Salameh Nematt is the international editor of The Daily Beast. He is the former Washington bureau chief for the international Arab daily Al Hayat, where he reported on US foreign policy, the war in Iraq, and the US drive for democratization in the broader Middle East. He has also written extensively on regional and global energy issues and their political implications.

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