Before the Election Results
Sadr reaches out to Iraqi Sunni clerics for coordination
BAGHDAD, Feb. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- Iraq's firebrand Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who had called for a nationwide rebellion against US-led forces last year, reached out to Sunni clerics for coordination, spokesman for a Sunni association said on Monday. "A delegation from the office of Sadr visited the headquarters of the Muslim Scholars Association and met with Harith al-Dhari, head of the association, for coordination between the two parties," said Abdul Salam al-Kubaisy at a press conference. Kubaisy declined to give further details but said the talks were concentrating on coordination between the two factions on Iraqi affairs in the current situation. "We would welcome any national comprehensive dialogue built on methodological bases and the separation between resistance and terrorism, because some are trying to relate the Iraqi resistance to Zarqawi group and loyalists of the former regime," said Kubaisy. "The dialogue should lead to the withdrawal of the Americans from our country," he said.
New at FPIF:
How Much Power Will the New Iraqi Government Really Have?
By Stephen Zunes
February 8, 2005
Much attention was paid in the run-up to the January 30 elections in Iraq regarding how the lack of security in much of the country, combined with the decision by major Sunni Arab parties to boycott in protest of recent U.S. attacks on several major urban areas, could thereby skew the results and compromise the resulting government’s credibility. Related concerns include the prospect of this election and the government that emerges exacerbating the divisions between Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. Perhaps an even bigger question is what kind of power this new government will actually have. It also remains to be seen as to whether the United States will allow the new government likely to be dominated by Shiite parties with a strong Islamist and nationalist agenda to assert their authority. Will the United States really defend freedom and democratic rule in Iraq if it results in a government that pursues policies seen to be contrary to American strategic and economic interests? Or like Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the absence of any operational, financial, or logistical links to al-Qaidawill "the establishment of democracy in Iraq" prove to be yet another deception of the American public in order to justify the U.S. takeover of that oil-rich nation?
Thought provoking blogging in Another Day in the Empire:
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Enlists his Family for Suicide Missions
February 08, 2005
If you were a radical fundamentalist Muslim, determined to wage holy war against the United States and Israel, would it make any sense to kill fellow Muslims, possible comrades in the struggle, and target influential Islamic clerics? Let’s say Muslims invaded the United States, determined to convert all us infidels to Islam, as the Strausscons say they want to do, wouldn’t it be not only counterproductive but also completely irrational for Catholics to run around blowing up Protestant churches or assassinating Lutheran religious leaders when the enemy is obviously the Islamic invaders? Such behavior would serve absolutely no purpose.
Moreover, once again thanks to Seymour Hersh, we know, and the Pentagon has confirmed, U.S. covert operations are under way in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere in the neighborhood, this in addition to Israel’s covert ops. How do we know Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is not a U.S. or Israeli covert op contrivance? And why is this possibility never mentioned by the corporate media? Well, of course, it is not mentioned because the corporate media gets all its information from the Bush administration and the Pentagon. Everything else is dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Remarkably, this passes for "journalism."
For my devalued dollar, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as a person operating in Iraq, does not exist.
From the Arab American Institute:
The Challenges Facing Post-Election Iraq
February 7, 2005
Even before the final tallies are announced, the attitudes of Iraq's electorate can be culled from an exclusive pre-election poll commissioned by Abu Dhabi Television and conducted by Zogby International of New York (ADTV/ZI). The poll helps to identify voter concerns and reveals details of the challenges facing the new Iraqi government.
A Deeply Divided Nation
The ADTV/ZI poll's projections of between 43% and 60% turnout were borne out in the election, so too was the sectarian divide in voting patterns. While some US officials have trumpeted the turnout rate, comparing it to US numbers, such comparisons are invalid and dangerous. The turnout, itself, was sectarian, with 80% of Shi'a and 69% of Kurds indicating their intention to vote, while 76% of Sunni Arabs stated that they would definitely not vote. The different expectations and motivations of each group were also clear. Shi'a felt empowered and were voting for control of the government, and Kurds were voting as an expression of their autonomy. The Sunni Arab failure to vote was a function not only of threats, but a clear expression of their growing sense of disenfranchisement. This is a dangerous divide that must be closed. If the winners do not act to enfranchise the Sunni Arab community and create a unifying Iraqi national agenda, the outcome of this election could serve to deepen the sectarian split and exacerbate the insurgency.
Two key sets of numbers to note are the majority of Sunni Arabs who say that the violence in Iraq is legitimate resistance (53%) and the substantial majority of Arabs, both Sunni (82%) and Shi'a (69%) who want the US to leave, now that an elected government is in place. Only Kurds want the US to remain (51%) until "safety and security are restored to the country." Of particular interest here are the attitudes of the supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. Their positions on both the insurgency and US presence are closer to those of the disenfranchised Sunni Arab community, than they are to other segments of the Shi'a community. It should be recalled that insurgents in both of these groups fought together against the US within the last year. Depending on the direction taken by the new Iraqi government and the US military, this tinderbox could be re-ignited once again.
On 1 February, Peter Galbraith, a long-time advocate of Kurdish
independence, was given the lead space in The New York Times to repeat his
call for division. The very next day, Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, repeated his argument that "the
only workable government would be a confederation with three largely autonomous regions". On 7 February, it was the Wall Street Journal’s turn to give editorial space to Kanan Makiya, the most prominent Iraqi advocates of US-style federalism for Iraq, one who wants Iraq neither Arab nor Islamic,
only pro-American (see Edward Said’s critique from 2002):
The Shiite Obligation
By Kanan Makiya
February 7, 2005
The size of the turnout, irrespective of the outcome, establishes that the Iraqi elections will go down in the history books as a defining event in the future of the Middle East. For those millions of ordinary Iraqis who risked making the ultimate sacrifice by braving the bombs and the gruesome killings, this moment is what the 2003 war was all about.
In spite of the many failings of the occupation regime that ended in June 2004 … Therefore I am both a happy man today, and a worried one.
When the Shiites become the majority in a duly elected Iraqi National Assembly, they will inherit the great burden of a fractured and deeplyatomized country filled with minorities, all of whom have known suffering of one sort or another. How will they shoulder that responsibility?
A fateful moment of truth came in March last year, during the debate over the interim basic constitution. A conflict erupted not over the authority of the interim government or its shape, but rather over the very distant and abstract notion of how the permanent constitution should be ratified. At issue was the all-important question of minority rights and federalism. Specifically, the most contentious item of the draft was Article 61(c), which held that no future permanent constitution could be ratified if two-thirds of voters in any three governorates rejected it.
Article 61(c) embodied a principle previously widely accepted by the democratic Iraqi opposition in exile; namely, that an Iraqi democracy had to be principally about minority rights, and only afterwards bout majority rule. In other words, the rule of law took precedence over public opinion and populist sentiment. After intensive discussion, the Iraqi Governing Council succeeded in reaching a consensus, and the crisis was overcome. Nevertheless, the incident showed that the idea of Iraq as a pluralist and accommodating whole was at odds with the Shiite sense of political entitlement arising from their own previous suffering. The most fundamental truth of post-Saddam politics in Iraq is that only the Shiites are in a position to stop the legacy of dictatorshipfrom snatching victory out of the jaws of its own demise in the shape of escalating confessional and ethnic violence in the years to come.I said that in 1993, but the point is a thousand times more relevant today.
The debate over Article 61(c) prefigures the most fundamental political struggle that will take place in the National Assembly ofthe new Iraq -- the struggle over what it means to be an Iraqi. As the majority in the coming National Assembly, the Shiite leadership will be at the forefront of this struggle. The selfish sectarian impulse, however understandable and natural, needs to be turned on its head into a new political idea that embraces the whole country, one that is neither Arab nor Islamic, but Iraqi.
From the Islamist CDLR forum, strongly critical views of Shi’ite strategies:
Iran and Iraq – Blunders of the Ayatollahs
February 5, 2005
How quickly the people have forgotten the staged celebration in Baghdad as the US soldiers pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein symbolising victory. It was the aerial shots (ignored by the mainstream media who focused on the close-up pictures of individuals) that showed the real image: in a city of five million, the small square was not even full. Claims of eight million voters turning out or 72% turn out (note 72% of the registered voters as opposed to the eligible voters) in the recent Iraqi election has already been retracted; and if millions did turn out where are the aerial shots showing the masses lining up to vote, CNN-TV and certainly Fox-TV would not have missed that opportunity. Despite the media propaganda a significant section of the Shi’ite population including Moqtada as-Sadr and his followers did not vote. Note, the mainstream media only asked those who voted giving a close-up picture as opposed to an aerial view!
On the contrary the spin doctors forget; - the voters were also propelled by the same objective as the so-called ‘insurgents’ (freedom fighters) which is to get rid of the US occupation. The voters opted for a political route believing that once a Sistani-endorsed government comes to power it will have legitimacy and the authority to ask the US to leave. But why would the US construct this election as a positive outcome for George Bush?
In the unlikely event, if the UIA (that will eventually form the core of the new Iraqi government) confronts the US on behalf of its electorate demanding its immediate withdrawal, the US would retaliate. She should start to push her agents notably the Kurdish elements, likes of Iyad Alawi and other treacherous elements firmly embedded inside Iraq and then start a campaign of assassination of the US opponents which would be easily blamed on the Iraqi freedom fighters. It is only then the Shi’ite followers of Sistani might realise that political clout is ineffective without the backing of force as other Shi’ite leaders like Moqtada as-Sadr has already pointed out.
But, how does Iran fit into this equation? … Instead Khamenei has gambled with elections, playing the political game with the US may prove to be blunder in the long run. It is still not too late for Iran to alter its posture and ensure that the UIA pursues a policy to actively expel the US and exposing the treacherous elements within.
Not only Iran should develop Nuclear weapons but declare its possession and the willingness to use such weapons in self-defence. Every nation has the right to defend itself. The only destabilising force is the US presence in the region; they are the real foreign fighters or state terrorists. Iran should help to supply nations with these weapons as the US supplies the illegitimate state of Israel; and should threaten to flatten Tel-Aviv if their cities are threatened by the US-Israeli forces; - then observe the neo-con hawks transform into neo-chickens!
Once the battle is brought closer to their door step their brave words behind the US military firepower would soon be replaced with the surfacing of their shylock nature. This is not aggression but legitimate self-defence considering the Iraq episode, the US cannot be trusted it always speaks with the two tongues as the Native Americans would tell you after centuries of persecution.