Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly confirmed that Nick Warner, head of Australian negotiating team in Iraq, knew that the negotiated release of the hostages including Douglas Wood was only 12 hours when the Iraqi military raided the release location. The Sheik has been quite sure the Americans had used that intelligence supplied by him. Needless to say, the Sheik has been pissed off by the Americans unnecessarily outflanking his efforts, and to worse consequences too.
The raid might have release Douglas Wood but now has put into jeopardy the lives of two Iraqi hostages who were supposed to be released at the same time with Woods. The Sheik moaned:
"The stupid action that was taken last week has exposed the fathers of these families to death. There is a 90 per cent chance that they will not be released now."
Well, Sheik, the Americans don’t like negotiated releases, as in the case of Italian hostage Guiliana Sgrena, where American troops poured fire on her vehicle as it was making its way to Baghdad airport after Sgrena's release. The American ambush killed her escort, an Italian agent Nicola Calipari.
Besides, unlike Woods those as-yet unreleased hostages are only Eye-rakees, aren’t they?
Anyway, the Sheik’s advisor told Wood’s family not to let Wood return to Iraq as he had earlier declared to do so. This is because he had called his captors ‘arseholes’ during the press conference, which will undoubtedly instigate the insurgents to specifically target him, this time not for money but rather for his life.
I was also wondering whether such unnecessary name-callings might have endangered those two yet-to-be released Iraqi hostages, one of whom Wood knew quite well. To add injury to the insult, Wood had to lavish sycophantic praise on Bush's policies in Iraq, which are anathema to the insurgents. He even apologised to Bush for reading from an insurgent-prepared statement about American occupation of Iraq. What has Bush done for him or to secure his release? Basically zilch. All efforts had been Australian, including the Sheik's sacrifice by delaying his heart surgery to dash off to Iraq for Wood.
Pity Wood didn't bother to spare a thought at least for the other hostages' survival prospects and kept his comments subtle and non-committal, at least until their release.
But then, Wood was happy as a lark and must have forgotten that his Iraqi co-hostages are still in the hands of the insurgents, while he is now safe with his family. In fact, as I blogged yesterday, Wood was pretty gungho, even singing Waltzing Mathilda as he swaggered into the press conference, making 'tough talk' like Dirty Harry.
The Sheik also said what I mentioned yesterday:
"What the raids also risk is that we lose the contacts and the friendships that we built with contacts in Iraq in the future."
Indeed, as I stated, “the probable loss for Australia is that a very useful Australian contact for the darker side of the Arab world may have been sacrificed for good. Let’s hope Australia may never ever need the help of the Sheik again.”
Pity Australia has to genuflect to American political manipulations, which may yet cost the loss of two additional Iraqi lives, and possible future Australian ones.