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[casi-analysis] A Man for all seasons..

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A Man for all seasons..

Hassan Zeini

June 1, 2004

Amid the depressing and horrible daily reports coming out from Iraq about torture, rape, murder, 
kidnappings, chaos and the complete collapse of order, the news of the possible appointment of Dr. 
Hussain Al-Shahristani as Iraq’s new Prime Minister came as a welcome diversion, at least from the 
point of view of the media; a change from the dreary routine.

However, no sooner had we started reading about the nomination, than we were told that Dr. 
Shahristani has declined the offer. The latest news speak of a unanimous decision by the Governing 
Council to nominate Dr. Iyad Allawi for the Premiership. The GC, we are told, met in a secret place 
for security reason!!

Whether or not Dr. Shahristani becomes Iraq’s interim Prime Minister is a matter that is of no 
concern anymore. If Dr. Shahristani were to accept the nomination (for whatever justifications he 
may give!), it would be a turn-around from his side and a contradiction of his previous views on 
the occupation, the interim constitution and the situation in Iraq generally.

On February 14, 2004, Dr. Shahristani wrote in the Scotsman an article titled “The Iraqi people's 
dream of stability starts with free and fair elections “. In it he wrote: ”Iraqis are told by the 
CPA that the reasons for delaying elections are the absence of voter registration lists and the 
security situation. However, in mid-2003 the Iraqi Central Bureau of Statistics, the body 
responsible for preparing voter lists, issued a report concluding that it could prepare lists and 
arrange for elections before the end of 2003. The CPA and the transitional Governing Council chose 
to ignore this report, and together signed an agreement that would allow them to handpick 
transitional assembly members through a complex caucus process. The 15 November agreement gave no 
role to the United Nations and set a timetable for a handover of sovereignty to these handpicked 
Iraqis by 30 June.”

In an interview given to on March 25, 2004, Dr. Shahristani said the following: “The 
Americans are denying the people of Iraq their democratic rights… What we have is a hand-picked 
Governing Council composed of exiled opposition groups, while local Iraqis have been deprived of a 
voice. The Americans can't establish security in the country because of this… The former expats 
don't have the right understanding of local conditions. They are there to please the Americans. For 
local Iraqis it is as if aliens have come down from another planet and taken over their country."

Commenting on the Iraqi people’s views of the occupation, Dr. Sharistani went on to say: “After the 
invasion there was a lot of goodwill and cooperation. But now people have seen that America plans 
to mould the government to their liking and to take it out of the control of the locals… The 
recently signed Interim Constitution is undemocratic because it ensures a three person presidential 
council can have veto power over decisions. Iraqis believe the Americans want to get economic and 
security agreements signed before direct elections so that they cannot be vetoed."

If Dr. Sharistani were to accept to become the US appointed Premiere, he would accept becoming part 
of an undemocratic process that aims at pleasing the Americans, and would himself belong to the 
same aliens to which he referred.

In an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal published on April 29, 2004, Dr. Shahristani 
criticized the US for failing to win the trust of the Iraqi people and for allowing the country to 
slip into turmoil. In his opinion, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) made a cardinal 
mistake by appointing a Transitional Governing Council (TGC) that overstepped its legitimacy by 
promulgating laws that should have been left to an elected body. He explained that the root of 
crisis is in the interim constitution that was negotiated secretly between the CPA and the without 
any public debate.

Would Dr. Shahristani then agree (under the guise of serving his countrymen and people) to work 
against his own convictions and the edicts issued by Ayatollah Sistani? My gut feeling tells me: 
YES. He has already hinted that he may accept the nomination by saying things like “If they 
consider my participation essential, I'll try to convince them otherwise. But if they're not 
convinced and they ask me to take a role ... I cannot refuse. I must serve my people."  Ayatollah 
Sistani had himself swallowed his words and accepted what his edict considered unacceptable: that a 
non-elected government be appointed by the occupiers.

But then again I may be mistaken…

It is now clear that Dr. Shahristani was more than ready to accept the nomination, but that his 
name was rejected by several groups in the TGC, and the pressure he was put under made it 
impossible for him to do anything else but to withdraw with dignity. The reason given by Intifadh 
Qanbar, spokesman for the INC, to al-Arabiya satellite channel on May 28, 2004 was that their group 
opposed a government of technocrats and wanted the politicians to rule the country. Intifadh 
Qanbar, it is worth mentioning, has been for some time in the US and will soon be joined by Ahmad 
ach-Chalabi. All indications point to the possibility that they do not intend to return to Iraq, 
now that their role has ended!! All ach-Chalabi's men are also out of the new cabinet formation 
announced today..

Allawi’s group, al-Wifaq, also opposed the nomination of Shahristani, as did al-Hakim’s SCIRI, for 
the same reasons and because Sharistani is considered the Dawa party’s nominee!! The Americans 
might also have had their reasons to reject the nomination of a man who had openly criticized their 
policies in Iraq.

According to the story which the Guardian ran on May 27, 2004, Dr. Shahristani is portrayed as a 
strong opponent of Saddam and his weapons’ program, which led to his arrest in 1979 until his 
escape in 1991. The story does contain part of the truth, but it again contradicts facts given by 
Dr. Shahristani himself in July 2000 and recently re-published by Az-Zaman newspaper in Baghdad.

Dr. Shahristani, a Nuclear Chemist, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He had returned 
to Iraq after his graduation in 1970 and was appointed as a researcher in the Iraqi Atomic Energy 
Commission, in charge of a program for Neutron acceleration. He was active in developing the 
necessary laboratories and participated in research projects whose results were published in 
scientific journals and presented in international scientific conferences.

In 1979 Dr. Shahristani became chief scientific adviser to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission.

In a seeming reference to Dr. Shahristani’s 1999 autobiography, the Guardian explains that Dr. 
Shahristani was summoned by Saddam to a meeting to discuss a secret plan to develop nuclear 
weapons; that he refused, and was consequently arrested, tortured for 22 days, and taken to Abu 
Ghraib, until he escaped in 1991. I have not read the said autobiography, but I know what he said 
in July 2000.

In that interview, Dr. Shahristani explained that he was arrested in 1979, tortured and transferred 
to Abu Ghraib prison. On 5 June 1980, he was visited by Saddam’s brother, Barzan, who was the head 
of the Iraqi Mukhabarat, accompanied by Abdul-Razzaq al-Hashimi, the head of the Iraqi Atomic 
Energy Commission. Barzan conveyed Saddam’s regrets for Shahristani’s arrest and torture in that 
way and asked him to go back to work in the Iraqi Nuclear Program to take part in producing the 
Iraqi Nuclear bomb, promising to provide him with medical treatment, a private plane and an open 
account in a Swiss bank. Shahristani states that he replied to Barzan that his physical and mental 
state would not allow him to participate in such a task, adding that his special field was neutron 
acceleration which had nothing to do with the process of producing a nuclear bomb..  Shahristani, 
furthermore, denied in that interview that Saddam had talked to him personally in that meeting 
about the bomb program.

Dr. Sharistani explained the reason for his arrest as follows:

“When I became chief scientific adviser to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, I was known for my 
Islamic inclinations; that I was a religious man, though not belonging to any specific Islamic 
party. After the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979,… the regime in Iraq executed a 
number of my friends and relatives, which left me no choice but to criticize human rights violation 
in Iraq…. I never openly opposed the Iraqi military nuclear program, but I criticized the 
violations of human rights in Iraq several times in front of experts working with me… One member of 
the Dawa party reveled during his detention names of his friends who used to meet in one house to 
discuss affairs and criticize the regime, and my name was one of the names he gave because I 
participated in one of those meetings, and I was thus arrested and accused of belonging to the Dawa 

There remains no doubt, after those statements, that Dr. Shahristani was NOT arrested for opposing 
the Nuclear program as alleged (because he admits he didn’t), nor for criticizing human rights 
violations (as he claims), but because he was suspected of belonging to an Islamic political party 
suspected of relations with Iran and plotting to overthrow the regime.

In spite of the fact that Dtr. Shahristani’s wife was a foreigner, he still maintained a very high 
position in Iraq and was allowed to serve in a very sensitive organization. That was at a time when 
the Revolutionary Command Council had issued a law whereby Iraqis married to foreigners were 
dismissed from their jobs, unless they divorced!! How did Hussain Sharistani keep his job as chief 
scientific adviser to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission??

What the media left out from the stories about Dr. Shahristani is worth investigating.

In an article on Fox news on February 18th, 2003, Dr. Hussain Al-Shahristani said he believed 
Iraq’s nuclear program had been dismantled, but that Saddam still had chemical and biological 
weapons; that such weapons were relatively easy to make, and that Saddam had "mobile" laboratories 
that roam the countryside, making it hard for U.N. weapons inspectors to find them. He also added 
that stockpiles of those weapons were located underground and in tunnels. Dr. Sharistani said that 
Saddam did not have the technological capability to use biological or chemical weapons in attacks 
on other countries, but that he could give his weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups who 
can smuggle them into other nations.

The New York Post published an article on February 19, 2003  “Saddam's Chem Plot Revealed” in which 
the same allegations were repeated. Dr. Shahristani was quoted as saying to a conference in the 
Philippines that there has been discussion within Saddam’s circle to set up what they called a 
'chemical belt' around Baghdad using his chemical weapons to entrap the residents inside. He added 
that Saddam did not have the capability to deploy a nuclear weapon or fire weapons of mass 
destruction on distant countries, but he said that Iraq has a flourishing chemical and biological 
weapons program that can be used on invading U.S. forces and the Iraqi people.

By saying that the only way the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq can find Iraq’s WMDs is “by pure 
accident", Dr. Hussain Shahristani had played a major role in assisting the US find justifications 
for its illegal war and occupation of Iraq. Ahmad ach-Chalabi may be accused of misleading the US 
with his lies, but Dr. Hussain Shahristani’s share of the blame should be equal if not even 
greater. After all, he is the scientist who knew quite well what Iraq had and did not have.

But coming from a man who had lied for 14 years about the reasons for his arrest and about his 
alleged opposition to Iraq’s nuclear program, these other lies should not be a surprise. One only 
wonders if Hussain Shahristani is going to be next on the list of those whom the US investigates 
for lying and misleading it…

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