Jul 2, 2008

Historic Handshake

By Joel Rosenberg

(Washington, D.C., July 2, 2008) -- Please forgive me for not writing Flash Traffic or updating my blog as often as usual this summer. The main reason is that I'm immersed in writing a new non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution, about the battle between Radicals and Reformers in the Middle East for the soul of the Islamic world.

One of the Reformers that has most intrigued me is a man by the name of Jalal Talabani. As the first truly democratically elected President of Iraq in human history and one who has consistently put his life on the line to fight the jihadists in his country, Talabani is a man who should be on the cover of Time and Newsweek. He should be the subject of lengthy profiles by network TV news magazines. One should be able to buy a New York Times best-selling biography of him. In short, Jalal Talabani should be a household name in the U.S. for the convictions he holds, the risks he takes, and the success he is achieving, bit by bit, day by day, week by week. And yet he receives almost no serious press coverage in the U.S. or Europe.

Over the past few months, I have interviewed those who know this 74-year old Kurdish patriot well. I've read hundreds of pages of speeches by him and articles about him, trying understand how this former violent rebel leader somehow transformed into a Jeffersonian Democrat in pursuit of a peaceful, prosperous, tolerant and pluralistic Iraqi society, friendly towards the U.S., friendly towards Jews and Christians, and deeply opposed to radical Islam. It's a story that intrigues me and, I confess, still baffles me. But I'm hunting down every lead I can, and praying for an opportunity to actually interview Talabani on my next trip to Iraq.

That said, perhaps you can understand how interesting I found this story of President Talabani smiling and shaking hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, now Israel's Defense Minister. What's more, the meeting was arranged by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of all people. It was a small but historic moment that took place yesterday at a conference just outside of Athens, Greece.

Talabani's office downplayed its significance to the Iraqi press so as not to stir up more trouble inside their troubled country. But the truth is, it was significant. The last President of Iraq -- Saddam Hussein -- vowed to incinerate half of Israel with chemical weapons....and went on to launch 39 ballistic missiles at the Jewish State during the first Gulf War. Clearly, Talabani is cut from wholly different cloth. And thank God. Worth watching, to say the least.