Bowing to the Mighty Ayatollah
January 18, 2004 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Bowing to the Mighty Ayatollah. Or how the US has to deal with Ayatollah Sistani's powerful influence in Iraq.
posted by skallas (7 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

He seems like he's making a positive contribution though. I like cacuses and all, but I can see how they would cause problems in less politicaly stable environments.
posted by delmoi at 7:32 AM on January 18, 2004

Fareed encapsulates the irreducible--and self-inflicted--damage caused to "the interests of the United States" by the neocons' puerile denigration of the institution of the UN:

"Washington lacks the basic tool it needs to negotiate with the locals: legitimacy. Belatedly it now recognizes that the United Nations can arbitrate political problems without being accused of being a colonizer."

The Bush Administration has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind: a Sharia-based Shiite regime in Iraq. It is ironic that Bush 41's sin of enabling Saddam's hecatombs of Shiites will be atoned for by his son's making Iraq safe for Islamic fundamentalism.

Proponents of "faith-based" this and that should reflect on the Law of Unintended Consequences.
posted by rdone at 8:07 AM on January 18, 2004

Proponents of "faith-based" this and that should reflect on the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Mideast precedent: Ariel Sharon's strategic masterpiece of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Elective war with intent of regime change to friendly Maronite Christian dominated government headed by Bashir Gemayel. In and out, brief campaign, destruction of the PLO, strategic edge over Syria and an end to guerilla attacks across northern border.

And that worked out nicely for Israel, didn't it? Israel curtailed Syrian influence in Lebanon and left Lebanon a peaceful, prosperous beacon of democracy for the Arab world and brought the blessed relief of peace to its northern frontier. Remember?
posted by y2karl at 8:47 AM on January 18, 2004

Juan Cole has been far ahead of the curve on Ayatollah Sistani--a pertinent recent comment: Sistani Plays the Tribal Card; Demonstration in Basra

I would not have thought Sistani, being a political quietist, would be stirring up clan leaders by invoking memories of 1920 or having urban demonstrations staged. He is emerging as a major political figure, and showing himself unafraid to play politics.

He is much more formidable than I had thought (during the late Saddam years he was painted as quite timid, though to be fair he survived a Baath assassination attempt in 1996). The game is afoot.

Also, Rory McCarthy in Firday's Guardian: Iraqi protesters demand election as ayatollah threatens fatwa

PS: From Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson on garrisoning the planet:

By spring, 40% of the troops in Iraq will be either Reservists or National Guard members, no longer doing support work for front-line units, but in the front-lines (such as they are) themselves.
posted by y2karl at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2004

"a Sharia-based Shiite regime in Iraq"
I don't think that's going to happen. I certainly haven't heard Sistani or any other Shiites calling for that or at least the image most have of an Iranian style state. They're calling for direct elections now (which I think Bush should have seen coming with "bringing democracy to the Mideast" as a rallying cry). Calling strongly for direct elections now, then retreating to a "ok, we're in power, so no more elections" doesn't seem a tenable position for them to take. Shiites are 60% of Iraq, but only 60%. Hell, if Iran had direct elections, they'd be a lot less fundamentalist and anti-US.

In the article, he says the Shiite's would gain the most because they are the only organized block. I think this is mostly true, but what about the Kurds? They might have had two states, but they did run their own states for a number of years now.

The recent governing council decree about making sharia for civil cases does suprise and scare me. It doesn't seem too popular with lots of folks, so we'll see if it really comes into power. It might have been nothing more than a gift to Sistani so that he might give a little on the election issue.
posted by superchris at 10:08 AM on January 18, 2004

Sistani is being very reasonable now because he knows that whatever party takes power in the first election will be the party which writes the new constitution of Iraq. He is quite capable of playing a pragmatic waiting game until he has that pen in his hand. I think time will show that Bush has created a sister state for Iran, and another century of hell for the Kurds.
posted by Voivod at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2004

US plan angering new Iraq parties

Ramadi, Iraq -- The dilemma facing the United States appeared at Keith Mines's office here in the form of a dancing, chanting crowd of Iraqis demanding more clout for their political parties in a provincial council that will help choose an Iraqi government this spring.

They were angry that Mines, the top US civilian official in Anbar province, had allocated 10 seats to tribal leaders and only three to political parties. "Selecting the people who are going to vote -- this is not full democracy," said Hikmat Jassem Zaidan, one of the protesters. "This is half democracy."

Iraqi Kurdish Leader Demands Guarantees

Baghdad, Jan. 17 -- A top Kurdish leader said Saturday that Iraq's Kurdish minority would not sign on to guidelines being formulated for a transitional government unless Kurds were guaranteed an expanded region of autonomy and an ironclad commitment to expel Arabs settled in the area by deposed president Saddam Hussein.

Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, said he lacked faith that a future, elected Iraqi government would fulfill Kurds' ambitions for self-rule in regions they consider their historic homeland -- including the oil-rich Kirkuk area.

Links to Anthony Cordesman's analyses of current situation in Iraq provided here. The ironically subtitled Developments in Iraq at the End of 2003: Adapting US Policy To Stay The Course is pertinent.
posted by y2karl at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2004

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