Wednesday, October 19, 2011

in medias res: Update on Negotiations for Return of Iraqi Archives

How are the Iraq/U.S. negotiations over the return of Iraqi documents and archives going?  Not so well according to Radio Free Europe's Radio Free Iraq, which reports today in "Iraqi Official Urges U.S. to Return Archives":
An Iraqi official has called on Washington to return national archives that were transferred to the United States after the 2003 invasion of the country, adding that Baghdad may go to the courts to get the documents back . . .  
 Deputy Culture Minister Taher Hmud said in a statement on October 17 that Iraq had used diplomatic efforts through the Foreign Ministry in the past few months to try to get Washington to return the important Iraqi documents.
The article refers to several sets of documents from Iraq including those seized by U.S. Forces,  those "given to the Iraq Memory Foundation" which Hamud noted "are very important to Iraq and rich in information and details about the members of the Baath Party,"and the Iraq Jewish archive which was "taken to the United States for maintenance, but," the article quotes Hamud, "the Americans did not keep their word and did not give this archive back to Iraq."

The article provides some vague flavor to negotiations that appear to be continuing with U.S. officials:
Hmud explained how Iraq has been dealing in a "very smooth, respectful, and professional way" with U.S. officials when negotiating the return of the archives.
"We also abstained from sending a diplomatic note to the American side in respect for their will to negotiate in a practical atmosphere," he told RFI. "But now, Iraq is left with no other choice but to go to court -- whether here in Iraq or in the United States [in order to secure the return of the archives]."
* * * *
But Hmud also said Iraq is ready to go back to the table and negotiate in order to try and solve this problem, but only "if the Americans pledge to keep their word and promises," he said.
Back in May 2010 AFP and others were reporting that the U.S. "has agreed to return millions of documents to Iraq, including Baghdad's Jewish archives, that were seized by the US military after the 2003 invasion." The source then was also Taher Hamud who was quoted as saying:
We have reached an agreement with the United States, after negotiations with officials at the State Department and the Pentagon, over the return of the Jewish archives and millions of documents that were taken to America after the events of 2003.
Whether the reports of an actual "agreement" were accurate or overly optimistic is unclear. A much more extensive and nuanced report  by Iraqi National Archives Director Saad Eskander of the negotiations of an Iraqi delegation with the State and Defense Departments and the Hoover Institution in April 2010 was posted by Jeff Spurr on the IraqCrisis List on May 19, 2010 (located in the list archive).  In relation the Iraqi Jewish Archives see also the AP story from July 2011 called "Tug-of-war over Iraqi Jewish Trove in US hands."