Articles by Brian Whitaker

Below is a collection of my articles about the Middle East, mostly written for The Guardian newspaper and its website. The articles are grouped chronologically and according to country.

Articles in chronological order:
2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998

Articles listed by country:
Algeria | Bahrain | Egypt | Iran | Iraq | Kuwait | Lebanon | Libya | Oman | Palestine/Israel | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Syria | Tunisia | United Arab Emirates | Yemen

Archive: Iraq

Pride and prejudice: The targeting of gay men in Iraq
Near East Quarterly, December 2010

Journalism court threat to Iraqi media
Comment Is Free, 25 Jul 2010

Iraq's proposed new journalism court is a further blow to the country's already oppressed media

Beautiful Iraq
Comment Is Free, May 4, 2007

Want a reliable indicator of a country's mental tenacity? Don't underestimate the power of the pageant.

UN chief urges Maliki to stay executions
Guardian, January 8 2007

Ban Ki-moon, the new UN secretary-general, has urged the Iraqi government to grant a stay of execution to "those whose death sentences may be carried out in the near future".

More troops will not solve crisis in Iraqi leadership, experts warn
Guardian, January 6 2007

Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is due to unveil his rescue package for the country next week, a day or two before George Bush does the same in Washington. The question, though, is whether Mr Maliki's heart is really in it.

Victim of the bloggers
Comment Is Free, January 5 2007

Online conspiracy theorists have once again caused a stir by attempting to expose Iraqi police captain, Jamil Hussein, as a fictional AP source.

Iraq to go ahead with hangings despite UN call to halt them
Guardian, January 5 2007

The Iraqi government said yesterday it will execute two of Saddam Hussein's henchmen despite a call from the UN to refrain from hanging them.

Official who filmed unruly scenes at Saddam's execution arrested
Guardian, January 4 2007

An Iraqi official believed to have used a mobile phone to film Saddam Hussein's execution was arrested yesterday as the authorities in Baghdad reportedly prepared to hang two of the ex-dictator's henchmen.

Prescott attacks 'deplorable' Saddam execution scene
Guardian, January 3 2007

The manner of Saddam Hussein's execution was "deplorable" and could not be endorsed, the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, said yesterday, breaking the British government's silence over the insults and sectarian chants heard as the former Iraqi leader went to the gallows.

Saddam was model prisoner, says nurse
Guardian, January 2 2007

Saddam Hussein was mostly an uncomplaining prisoner who saved crumbs to feed the birds, watered weeds in the jail compound and believed that cigars were good for his health, according to a military nurse who cared for him in US custody.

Emotions in Arab world range from elation to outrage
Guardian, January 1 2007

The Arab world was divided over the hanging of Saddam Hussein, with the Middle East's two leading satellite TV channels reflecting the divisions between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Saddam executed
Guardian, Saturday December 30 2006

Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi despot who menaced neighbours and murdered his own people during a quarter century of wretched tyranny, died ignominiously on the gallows shortly before dawn this morning at the hands of his former enemies.

Saddam's 'final message' urges Iraqis to unite against US
Guardian, Thursday December 28 2006

In what may prove to be the final message from Saddam Hussein before his execution, the ousted dictator urged Iraqis to unite against the US and Iran and portrayed himself as a potential martyr.

Saddam to hang within 30 days
Guardian, Wednesday December 27 2006

Saddam Hussein could be hanged within days after the rejection of his appeal by Iraq's highest court yesterday.

A welcome from Beckett, but scorn and scepticism abroad
Guardian, Thursday December 7 2006

The British government gave a brief but favourable welcome last night to the Iraq Study Group's report, as other international reactions ranged from jubilant to sceptical.

Beyond the brink
Comment Is Free, November 28, 2006

While politicians and large sections of the media are still reluctant to admit it, Iraq appears to be in the throes of civil war already.

Iraq: the Mad Max scenario
Comment Is Free, October 17, 2006

Never mind democracy - our current goal is to keep Iraq from being wiped off the map altogether.

Saddam no dictator, says judge
Guardian, September 15 2006

Saddam Hussein was not a dictator, the chief judge at his genocide trial said yesterday.

Who is Bush kidding?
Comment Is Free, June 19, 2006

A report from the US ambassador in Baghdad reveals what life in 'free and democratic' Iraq is really like.

Zarqawi: don't celebrate too soon
Comment Is Free, June 8, 2006

Rather than being a blow against al-Qaida, the death of its leader in Iraq could relieve the terror group of a problem and give it a martyr.

Bush's victory in Iraq
Comment Is Free, June 6, 2006

Cheer up, George: there is one person at least who understands the nature of your triumph.

Saddam trial hears phone call linked to massacre claims
Guardian, Tuesday April 25 2006

Prosecutors in the trial of Saddam Hussein played a recording yesterday said to be of a phone conversation in which the ousted Iraqi leader agreed to "change the social reality" in the Shia town of Dujail.

Ten reasons to kill an Iraqi
Comment Is Free, April 18, 2006

Sunni, Shia or Christian, there is usually something.

Seven British soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan
Guardian, Saturday April 15 2006

Seven British soldiers were injured yesterday in incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bold, brave and incompetent
Comment Is Free, April 11, 2006

Opposition to Ibrahim al-Jaafari is based on partisan interests, but that does not mean he's a good prime minister.

Stop this 'civil war' debate
Comment Is Free, April 10, 2006

There is an "incipient civil war" in Iraq, according to the Boston Globe. More cautiously, the Albany Times Union in New York state talks of "what appears to be an incipient civil war". Iraq's deputy interior minister, on the other hand, doesn't mince his words. There has been an undeclared civil war for the past 12 months," he says. It just needs someone to blow a starting whistle to make the whole thing official, presumably.

The Fukuyama experience
Comment Is Free, March 24 2006

Listening to Francis Fukuyama these days can be a disconcerting experience.

All quiet in Baghdad
Comment Is Free, March 30, 2006

Good news from Iraq, at last. It's going fine. We have the word of Howard Kaloogian.

Hello, is that Saddam?
Comment Is Free, March 29, 2006

Has the former Iraqi leader really been chatting by phone from his jail cell with the Arabic TV station?

Weapons of mass deception?
Comment Is Free, March 28, 2006

Did President Bush's dirty tricks department never consider planting weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

What to do about Iraq
Comment Is Free, March 20 2006

We won't find a 'solution', but there is a way forward.

US launches biggest Iraq air assault since 2003
The Guardian, March 17 2006

The US military said yesterday it had launched the biggest air assault on Iraq since its invasion in 2003, with American and Iraqi troops targeting insurgents near Samarra, the city that has come to symbolise the threat of civil war.

Ruling Shia coalition won election, results confirm
The Guardian, February 11 2006

Final results in Iraq's election, announced yesterday almost two months after the poll, confirmed that the ruling Shia coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, won 128 seats to become the largest parliamentary bloc but without an overall majority

US frees five women, but denies deal with journalist's kidnappers
The Guardian, January 27 2006

The US military freed five women detainees in Iraq yesterday, but officials denied any connection with the demands of kidnappers holding the American journalist Jill Carroll.

Suicide attack at Iraqi funeral kills 36, wounds 40
The Guardian, January 05 2006

A suicide bomber caused carnage at a Shia funeral and gunmen ambushed a vital fuel convoy outside Baghdad in a series of attacks that killed more than 50 people yesterday, the deadliest day in Iraq for weeks.

US warplane used to target Iraqi family home
The Guardian, January 04 2006

Between six and 14 members of an Iraqi family were reported dead yesterday after US warplanes obliterated a house in the northern oil town of Baiji. Enraged local officials described the attack as unjustified and said it had killed an innocent family


Sunnis shun government talks in protest at election results
The Guardian, December 30 2005

Sunni Arab groups in Iraq refused yesterday to join talks about a new government until the United Nations reviews disputed results in the recent parliamentary elections.

Boredom sets in over Saddam trial 'soap opera'
The Guardian, December 24 2005

"Oh oppressor, where will you go and hide now?" the voice sings, "... leaving behind all these injustices, worse than any committed by any other ruler or government."

Nowhere to run
The Guardian, November 29 2005

There is a remarkable article in the latest issue of the American Jewish weekly, Forward. It calls for President Bush to be impeached and put on trial "for misleading the American people, and launching ...

23 dead as Shia and Sunni militia clash after raid to free hostage
The Guardian, October 28 2005

At least 23 people died when supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr clashed with Sunni militants near Baghdad yesterday, an interior ministry official said. The fighting broke out after Mr Sadr's Madhi army militia raided a house in Nahraw

Straw warns Iran over insurgents
The Guardian, October 17 2005

Britain and Iran traded new accusations of meddling in each other's affairs yesterday, as London warned Tehran to stop helping Iraqi insurgents and the Iranian president accused British forces of involvement in weekend bombings in Iran.

Britain and US give Iran new warning not to back insurgents
The Guardian, October 17 2005

Britain and the US issued a fresh warning to Iran over its suspected support for Iraqi insurgents yesterday as Tony Blair and the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, met for talks at Chequers.

Revealed: Al-Qaida plan to seize control of Iraq
The Guardian, October 13 2005

Osama bin Laden's deputy has sent a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the militant leader in Iraq, setting out a blueprint for taking control of the country when American troops leave, according to US intelligence officials.

The cardinal rule ... you don't target civilians
Guardian Unlimited, October 03 2005

Aisha Gadafy, the daughter of the Libyan leader, declared her support for insurgents in Iraq last week.

Report attacks 'myth' of foreign fighters
The Guardian, September 23 2005

The US and the Iraqi government have overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, "feeding the myth" that they are the backbone of the insurgency, an American thinktank says in a new report.

.iq test
The Guardian, July 05 2004

A new battle for control of Iraq is looming - this time on the world wide web ...

Fig-leaf freedom
The Guardian, January 31 2005

President George Bush has pronounced the election in Iraq a success. "The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the centre of the Middle East," he said yesterday.

World's news channels play to prejudices
The Guardian, January 31 2005

In the studios at Fox News, Rupert Murdoch's American channel, they could scarcely contain their joy at the "incredible" reports that voter turnout in Iraq had reached 95% "in some areas".


Iraq's problems passed on
The Guardian, June 28 2004

One of the few good things to be said about the British empire is that we got rid of it in style.

They have put off every big issue for a later date, when the US is no longer ringmaster
The Guardian, March 09 2004

The signing of Iraq's new interim constitution may have brought sighs of relief in Washington but the arguments behind it are likely to continue in Iraq, according to experts interviewed by the Guardian.


Spoils of war
The Guardian, October 13 2003

US plans to sell off Iraqi businesses are simply the modern equivalent of pillage ...

Zionist settler joins Iraqi to promote trade
The Guardian, October 07 2003

An ultra-Zionist Israeli settler has joined forces with the nephew of the Iraqi leader Ahmad Chalabi to promote investment in Iraq.

Network error
The Guardian, September 29 2003

Any day now, the authorities in Iraq will announce the winners of a contest to provide Iraq's long-awaited mobile phone service. This is one area where Halliburton - vice-president Dick Cheney's old firm - isn't a front-runner, so the outcome could be in...

Friends of the family
The Guardian, September 24 2003

Fancy your chances making a fast buck from the reconstruction of Iraq? Well, you'll need to invest in a bullet-proof vest for starters, and then make some well-connected business contacts on the ground.

The Ayatollah: Iraq's archduke?
The Guardian, September 01 2003

The worst act of violence in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein was overshadowed in Britain's broadsheet papers on Saturday by news that Tony Blair's media adviser had resigned.

Another fine mess
The Guardian, September 11 2003

US plans to sell off Iraqi businesses are simply the modern equivalent of pillage ...

Iraq's fresh start may be another false dawn
The Guardian, September 05 2003

Six times since the fall of Saddam Hussein British and US officials have summoned journalists to briefings on Iraq. Six times the story has been the same: there have been mistakes, but from now on it's going to be different.

Get real
The Guardian, August 26 2003

Talk of impending failure in Iraq may sound like whinging when it comes from those who opposed the war, but last week the unspeakable seven-letter F-word was uttered by one of the bastions of US neo-conservative hawkery.

Searching for answers
The Guardian, August 18 2003

The Hutton inquiry is unlikely to discover why Tony Blair chose to support the US invasion of Iraq ...

Voice of free Iraq walks out on US
The Guardian, August 06 2003

A broadcaster who became known as "the voice of free Iraq" after the fall of Saddam Hussein has walked out of his job, saying the United States is losing the propaganda war.

The captives of liberation
The Guardian, July 02 2003

"American soldiers," the New York Times lamented the other day, "sometimes infuriate Iraqis by running afoul of time-honoured tradition." It was referring to an incident last Thursday night when troops on patrol in Baghdad heard gunshots and rushed int...

Getting a bad press
The Guardian, June 23 2003

Among the more interesting by-products of the collapse of law and order in Iraq is a sudden free-for-all in newspaper publishing. New titles appear almost every day. Najaf - a town with slightly more than 300,000 inhabitants - now has some 30 newspapers...

Fury at US as attacks kill three journalists
The Guardian, April 09 2003

The Arab satellite television channel al-Jazeera is to pull its reporters out of Iraq after one of them was killed during a US air raid on Baghdad.

Hawkish lawyer to oversee Iraqi ministries
The Guardian, April 04 2003

A Pentagon lawyer who sought to have US citizens imprisoned indefinitely without charge as part of the war on terrorism willsupervise civil administration in Iraq once Saddam Hussein isremoved.

US disputes cloud postwar plans
The Guardian, April 02 2003

Plans to set up a US-controlled government to rule Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein have become embroiled in a series of rows involving the state department, the Pentagon and Iraqi opposition groups.

US draws up secret plan to impose regime on Iraq
The Guardian, April 01 2003

A disagreement has broken out at a senior level within the Bush administration over a new government that the US is secretly planning in Kuwait to rule Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Television agendas shape images of war
The Guardian, March 27 2003

Al-Jazeera causes outcry with broadcast of battle casualties
The Guardian, March 24 2003

Al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite channel which angered the United States with its coverage of the Afghan war, has caused a new furore by broadcasting blood-and-guts images from the invasion of Iraq.

Iraq war diary
A daily commentary, March 19 - April 14, 2003

Opposition attracts
The Guardian, March 10 2003

Public opinion in the Middle East is increasingly backing western critics of a war in Iraq, and questioning the region's own leaders ...

Right takes centre stage
The Guardian, March 04 2003

At the annual dinner of the American Enterprise Institute last Wednesday, the US president, George Bush, gave a speech outlining his political visions for Iraq and Palestine, and what he sees as the link between them.

Wargames open with clandestine broadcasts
The Guardian, February 25 2003

A voice in Arabic crackles over the airwaves: "This is Radio Tikrit." It sounds like an Iraqi station broadcasting from Saddam Hussein's home town, but it isn't.

Conflict and catchphrases
The Guardian, February 24 2003

Faced with obstruction from the French and Germans, ransom demands from the Turks, and opposition from millions of demonstrators around the world, the desired invasion of Iraq has fallen behind schedule.

Poodle power
The Guardian, February 17 2003

Far from being the subservient partner in the transatlantic relationship, many Arabs believe that Britain actually holds the key to preventing a US-led invasion of Iraq ...

UK war dossier a sham, say experts
The Guardian, February 07 2003

Downing Street was last night plunged into acute international embarrassment after it emerged that large parts of the British government's latest dossier on Iraq - allegedly based on "intelligence material" - were taken from published academic articles, some of them several years old.

Weapons teams discover nothing
The Guardian, January 01 2003

UN inspection teams in Iraq have found "zilch" so far, but have had little help from intelligence agencies to guide them in their hunt for illicit weapons, one of the inspectors said yesterday.


The papers that cried wolf
The Guardian, December 16 2002

Last week brought yet another terrifying headline from an American newspaper: "US suspects al-Qaida got nerve agent from Iraqis".

Poisoning the air
The Guardian, December 09 2002

One of the oldest tricks in the run-up to a war is to spread terrifying stories of things that the enemy may be about to do. Government officials plant these tales, journalists water them and the public, for the most part, swallow them.

Fighting talk
The Guardian, November 25 2002

How likely is a war in Iraq? Going about my daily work in Cairo over the last week or so, I have put this question to a variety of people and have received almost every possible answer. The replies ranged from a 90% probability of war (from a man in a cafe) down to a mere 5% probability (from a rather senior figure in the Egyptian government).

To war or not to war
The Guardian, November 11 2002

Shortly after Colin Powell took over as US secretary of state, he talked about rebuilding the international consensus on Iraq. Well, in a roundabout and rather accidental way, that is what has happened with the new security council resolution on weapons inspections.

X marks the despot
The Guardian, October 16 2002

It must have been extremely tedious work counting ballot papers in Iraq last night.

Is this British-trained woman at the heart of a germ warfare plot?
The Guardian, September 25 2002

She is a 46-year-old mother with a PhD from the University of East Anglia ... and she takes up more space in Tony Blair's Iraq dossier than either of Saddam Hussein's two sons.

Saddam's kitchen cabinet keeps quiet
The Guardian, September 17 2002

The decisions Saddam Hussein takes over the next few days after holding a rare, day-long meeting with his inner circle are likely to determine his own fate and that of his regime.

Dictator's choice
The Guardian, September 10 2002

George Bush has the power to make war but Saddam Hussein has the power to salvage peace. No matter how much countries and individuals protest or question the justification for war with Iraq, there is little they can do now to deflect President Bush from his chosen course.

Playing skittles with Saddam
The Guardian, September 03 2002

In a televised speech last week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt predicted devastating consequences for the Middle East if Iraq is attacked.

Mystery of Abu Nidal's death deepens
The Guardian, August 22 2002

The questions about Abu Nidal's death multiplied yesterday when the Palestinian guerrilla leader's organisation dismissed Iraqi claims that he committed suicide and alleged that he had been assassinated.

US thinktanks give lessons in foreign policy
August 19 2002

A little-known fact about Richard Perle, the leading advocate of hardline policies at the Pentagon, is that he once wrote a political thriller. The book, appropriately called Hard Line, is set in the days of the cold war with the Soviet Union. Its hero is a male senior official at the Pentagon, working late into the night and battling almost single-handedly to rescue the US from liberal wimps at the state department who want to sign away America's nuclear deterrent in a disarmament deal with the Russians.

Assassinate or inspect?
August 14 2002

In 1981 former President Ronald Reagan issued an executive order providing that "no person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination" (US considers assassination squads, August 13).

Saddam woos Arab friends and enemies
The Guardian, August 10 2002

As the US fights an uphill battle to win support for an invasion of Iraq, Baghdad has been quietly gathering declarations of sympathy - if not outright support - in the Middle East and beyond.

Blair is our last hope, says Iraq
The Guardian, August 07 2002

Iraq is making an increasingly desperate round of diplomatic moves aimed at staving off an American invasion, focusing its efforts on Britain which it believes holds the key to preventing war.

War games
The Guardian, August 05 2002

Amid the beating of war drums there has been much talk about what the United States may do to Iraq but very little about what Iraq itself may have in mind. From what can be learned of Iraq's strategy, it consists of two parts: first to try to prevent an attack and, second, if the invasion comes, to make it as difficult and costly as possible for the Americans.

Jordan's double game over Iraq
The Guardian, July 15 2002

Friday evening at Kensington town hall in London. Exiled Iraqi army officers and opposition leaders were just about to start their much-heralded talks on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein when a cry of "Media! Media!"...

Iraq and ruin
The Guardian, June 17 2002

Iraq has kept out of the limelight for several months now, but various small incidents over the last few days provide a reminder that toppling Saddam Hussein is still high up on George Bush's task list, even if he's unsure how to do it.

US wants to oust Saddam even if he makes concessions
The Guardian, May 06 2002

The US may try to remove Saddam Hussein from power even if he agrees to new weapons inspections, the secretary of state, Colin Powell, said yesterday.

Taking tea with the dissident
The Guardian, March 19 2002

There's a flask of ready-made tea on the table and a large plate of traditional Iraqi biscuits, because these days, Saad Jabr can never be quite sure when guests will drop in. After a lull of several years, the living room of his flat in Kensington, west London, has suddenly become a centre of activity for Iraq's opposition-in-exile.

Life after Saddam: the winners and losers
The Guardian, February 25 2002

You don't need a weatherman to know the way the wind blows, and at the moment it isn't blowing Saddam Hussein's way.

After Saddam
The Guardian, February 23 2002

Emboldened by success in Afghanistan and tired of being trapped in the quagmire over sanctions and weapons inspections in Iraq, the United States has embarked on a plan to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. Ousting Saddam by force is certainly a hazardous enterprise, but the US, after years of hesitation, seems determined to commit whatever resources it takes to finish the job.

Online Iraqis vote for new leader
The Guardian, March 26 2002

In excitement it may not rival the great Pop Idol ballot, but wired-up Iraqis are voting this week for a man to replace Saddam Hussein.

Doublespeaking of terrorism
The Guardian, December 03 2001

If the US stretches the definition of terrorism to justify an attack on Iraq, it will stretch the international coalition to breaking point ...

Another side of Saddam - the shy romantic novelist
The Guardian, May 26 2001

A tragic novel of loveless marriage, rape and death is causing a stir in Iraq and at the CIA. Could its unnamed author be the Butcher of Baghdad? ...

Are smart sanctions the answer?
The Guardian, May 21 2001

Sanctions against Iraq may have been in place for 10 years but they have failed to achieve the desired effect.

Saddam supports sanctions
The Guardian, April 16 2001

Hands up if you know the answer to this: does Saddam Hussein want sanctions against Iraq to be lifted? ...

Saddam's happy Arab family
The Guardian, January 19 2001

The commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Gulf war in Baghdad this week was a subdued affair.

Saddam: serpent in the Garden of Eden
The Guardian, January 12 2001

Ten years ago next Wednesday the largest military alliance the world has seen unleashed its weaponry in Operation Desert Storm or, as Saddam Hussein called it, the Mother of Battles. The issue, in the eyes of Margaret Thatcher (prime minister when Iraq invaded Kuwait) was a simple matter of good versus evil: Saddam had invaded a sovereign state and turned it into a province of Iraq. He must not be allowed to get away with it.

The great survivor
The Guardian, January 03 2001

Holding a rifle in one hand and a cigar in the other, Saddam Hussein fired into the air, a signal to the world that he is back - with a bang.

Saddam who?
September 22 2000

A reader took me to task this week for being on first-name terms with Saddam Hussein. Why did I constantly refer to the Iraqi dictator in a recent article as "Saddam", the reader's email asked. "Do you address the British prime minister in a serious article as 'Tony'?"

Damage claims spiral into the realm of the futile
August 01 2000

For nine years now 200 people in Switzerland have been totting up what promises to be the world's biggest bill: the compensation Iraq must pay for invading Kuwait. The final tally will not be known for three more years, but it is likely to be hundreds of billions of dollars.

The true cost of Gulf war compensation
June 16 2000

Wars never come cheap. Ten years after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the bills are still coming in - and they're enormous. Apart from the cost of all the bullets, bombs and missiles used, and the deaths and injuries, there are thousands - perhaps millions - of people who played no part in the war but suffered financially: the poor families in Egypt who depended on remittances from relatives working in Iraq are just one example.

Gulf war reparations may take Iraq more than a century to pay
June 16 2000

Iraq faces a series of gigantic claims for Gulf war damage - so large that there is almost no way to recover the money, short of extending sanctions for well over 100 years.