Romania’s Role in Freeing Hostages in Iraq

Jim Hoagland’s column in last Thursday’s Washington Post exposed an unusual angle on the hostage-taking business in Iraq.

Three haggard Romanian journalists appeared on al-Jazeera television April 22, in handcuffs and with guns pointed at their heads, to beg for their lives. They would be killed if Romania did not immediately withdraw its 860 troops from Iraq, their captors announced to the world….

There is a happy ending to this particular story: The Romanian government, which rejected any troop withdrawals, managed to win the journalists’ freedom a month after their suffering was exploited on al-Jazeera. With the help of Iraq’s besieged authorities, Bucharest has also unraveled many details of the kidnapping plot.

That investigation in turn contributed to the freeing Sunday of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi translator, Hussein Hanoun Saadi. They and the Romanians were held on a “hostage farm” north of Baghdad by one of the local networks that traffic in foreign and Iraqi hostages. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin publicly thanked Romania on Tuesday for its help.

Criminality became ingrained in Iraqi society during the long and brutal rule of Saddam Hussein, and it did not disappear with the U.S. invasion. Many of those who finance or commit the bombings and other atrocities that flash nightly on American television screens, where the violence is interpreted uniformly as a political phenomenon, fight to be able to return to crime-as-usual in Iraq.

The Romanian case also casts new light on the strong connections that united the Iraqi dictator — and other Arab leaders — with the intelligence services and political establishments of the Soviet bloc for three decades. As they made cause against the United States together, they also made money together.

The U.N. oil-for-food scandal is in many ways only a small strand in the vast web of international corruption and violence spun around the Middle East’s oil riches….

The [Romanian] election last December of a democratic government headed by President Traian Basescu [who ran as an anticorruption candidate] has finally opened the files of the Romanian Intelligence Service …

O să fie foarte interesant, cred eu.

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