Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iran protesters seize documents from UK embassy in Tehran

Several reports indicate that the Iranian protesters that forced their way into the British embassy yesterday in Tehran seized a number of embassy documents.  The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), for example, reported:
Speaking to IRNA, one of the students said the protestors are studying the documents seized from the Garden to get information on the UK's role in assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari.  He added that having found the documents, the students hoped to prove the UK's role in assassination of important personalities and elite of the country. . . . Incoming reports indicate that the documents obtained from the Garden have been transferred to a safe place.
The Guardian also reported that:
Tabnak, a conservative website close to the former revolutionary guards commander, Mohsen Rezaei, claims the protesters have confiscated secret and spy documents from British embassy compound. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Saddam Tapes (Book)

I highly recommend "Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings of a Tyrant's Regime, 1978-2001" edited by Kevin M. Woods, David D. Palkki, and Mark E. Stout, which was recently published by Cambridge University Press (also at AmazonWorldcat and preview at Google Books).

The Saddam Tapes consists of edited transcripts of audio tapes of Saddam Hussein and senior Iraqi officials. The transcripts are extensively annotated with footnotes and text to put them in context. I am still making my way through the transcripts, which are fascinating and at times harrowing.  The book's introduction briefly discusses the history, benefits, and challenges of using captured documents for research.

From the publisher: During the 2003 war that ended Saddam Hussein's regime, coalition forces captured thousands of hours of secret recordings of meetings, phone calls, and conferences. Originally prepared by the Institute for Defense Analyses for the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, this study presents annotated transcripts of Iraqi audio recordings of meetings between Saddam Hussein and his inner circle. The Saddam Tapes, along with the much larger digital collection of captured records at the National Defense University's Conflict Records Research Center, will provide researchers with important insights into the inner workings of the regime and, it is hoped, the nature of authoritarian regimes more generally. The collection has implications for a range of historical questions. How did Saddam react to the pressures of his wars? How did he manage the Machiavellian world he created? How did he react to the signals and actions of the international community on matters of war and peace? Was there a difference between the public and the private Saddam on critical matters of state? A close examination of this material in the context of events and other available evidence will address these and other questions.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Iraq to UN Security Council on Missing Kuwait Archives from 1990 Invasion

As has been reported in the news, Iraq recently sent this letter to the UN Security Council, which notes two things.  First, at the Security Council's urging Iraq has formed a high-ranking committee for "coordinating the efforts relating to Kuwaiti national archives" that have not been returned since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.  Second, letter states that, as a small gesture:
The Minster for Foreign Affairs of Iraq sent a letter to the Kuwait Embassy in Baghdad regarding the existence of 136 microfilm cassettes that include the official archive of the official newspaper, Kuwait Today.
The cassettes are in good condition and ready for transmission.  The cassettes were handed over by an Iraqi citizen to the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

World War II Captured Document Research at Fold3

Fold3, formerly Footnote, has an impressive digital collection of documents related to captured documents and archives from World War II.  See especially, sections on WWII Captured German Records, various Ardelia Hall Collections (such as the Offenbach Administrative Records) and the Office of Military Government U.S. (OMGUS) Cultural Affairs Branch, which includes a wide variety of records related to Archives in WWII.  Certain of these collections used to be available online for free, but now unfortunately require membership.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Al-Ahram Weekly: "Iraq's stolen memory"

Salah Nasrawi has an editorial in Al-Ahram Weekly entitled "Iraq's stolen memory" arguing that the "massive state archive that American forces captured after they invaded Iraq in 2003 are considered a treasure and part of Iraq's national heritage, which should be returned to Iraq." The editorial is keyed to the recent release of documents coinciding with the CRRC/Wilson Center conference on the Iran-Iraq War.

Nasrawi states that the release of the documents is raising eyebrows among many Iraqis about the morality, legal responsibility and academic honesty of keeping and re-examining foreign documents seized during occupation."  Nasrawi also discusses the IMF documents and the Iraq Jewish Archives and states that
The Iraqi government has repeatedly demanded the return of the historical documents held in the United States arguing that continued US possession of these documents would be of great concern. Neither the US army nor the government has disclosed plans on how to deal with the Iraqi records or say if they will be transferred to Iraq after the US troops withdraw by year end. 
* * * * 
Still, Iraqi scholars stress that the taking of the documents threatens not only the Iraqi people with the loss of their historical memory but also the academic credibility and impartiality if that archive is being treated as war spoils or colonial booty. In the case of Saddam's and the Baath archive, they argue that the analysis of the contents of such documents is critical to any final assessment of Saddam's era and they are essential for Iraqis to come to grips with their past.
Iraqi officials have demanded that the records be sent to the Iraqi National Library and Archive, a repository for government and historical documents from many periods and the key institute for researching Iraq's history. While the US government has remained aloof, a key question remains: by what right will US academia obtain and research the Iraqi records without Iraqis' consent or participation?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Bin Ladin's Audiocassette Library" in CTC Sentinel

The cover story from October's CTC Sentinel from the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point is "Insights from Bin Ladin's Audiocassette Library in Kandahar" by Flagg Miller. The article notes that more than 1,500 tapes were "acquired" by CNN "in early 2002 from Bin Ladin's Kandahar compound" and that after "the tapes were reviewed by U.S. intelligence agencies shortly after their acquisition, the collection was sold to the Williams College Afghan Media Project run by American anthropologist David Edwards."  The tapes were later transferred to Yale which began making them publicly available online as "Islamic Fundamentalist Audiotapes."  For "provenance" of the tapes Yale states, "The materials were a gift of David B. Edwards" and for copyright states "Copyright status for collection materials is unknown."  Yale's own description for the collection states:
Originally said to have originated in Osama bin Laden's compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan, these tapes endured a long journey to the United States and to their final home in Yale University. In the weeks following the Taliban's evacuation from Kandahar on December 7, 2001, the audiocassettes were initially acquired by a CNN producer and his Afghani translator. After the FBI declined stewardship of the tapes, CNN transferred the materials to Williams College's Afghan Media Project, headed by anthropologist David Edwards. After several years of work with the tapes, Edwards determined that Williams did not have the resources to preserve them. Yale was approached because of its well-known collections, scholarship, and database development related to Middle East studies. The tapes, many of which are in fragile and deteriorating condition, arrived in September 2006 and are housed at the Library Shelving Facility. Physical ownership of the tapes resides with Yale. 
The origin and custody of these tapes would perhaps provide an interesting compare/contrast with the IMF/Hoover/Ba'ath Debate.