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Bremer and the ayatollah

Iraq: shiite leader ali sistani calls for early general elections. Bremer seeks un support for own election mode

"America claims it is bringing democracy and freedoms to countries. Well, let it give us elections. Especially since we have lived through 35 years of darkness, we need an election that represents the people." a voice among the nearly 100,000 shiites who took to the streets of baghdad today to demand elections that will finally give iraq a sovereign government.

Bremer and his administration also want elections, but according to the timetable set in mid-november and with an election mode to which shiite leader ayatollah ali sistani has shown clear opposition from the outset. Bremer and some members of the iraqi governing council are in new york today to get the support of kofi annan, the un secretary general: annan is expected to help "godfather" convince the shiites that a general election in iraq cannot be held in the short time until june for technical reasons. The leitmotif is that the un’s involvement, the details of which are still unclear, should give the elections a legitimacy that outweighs the constant doubts as to whether the transition mode proposed by the americans is guided more by american interests than by the oft-invoked intention of leaving iraq to the iraqis as soon as possible.

However, after yesterday’s attack on the u.S. Administration in baghdad, which killed more than 20 people, the chances of un involvement in iraq look bleak.

As early as mid-december of last year, ayatollah sistani had called for a neutral un committee to visit iraq to find out on the spot whether general elections were technically unfeasible, as the coalition administration claimed: a proposal that caused bremer some embarrassment at the time.

Since then, bremer and the ayatollah, who until then had been regarded by the americans as a reliably calm and loyal backstop and "joker" against extremists was understood to be about the american "road map" on democracy in iraq. The u.S. Administration wants to take control of the government by 31 december. May of this year to an interim national assembly ("transitional national assembly"), the members of which are appointed by a 15-member committee. Of the 15 committee members, five are appointed by the governing council and ten by regional assemblies.

This mode, which is similar to the american "caucus"-the transitional national assembly, which resembles a process derived from a native american word for a meeting of tribal elders, is intended to ensure that the various factions in iraq have a chance to participate in the process, according to the u.S. Administration. The moderates did not have time to organize for a general election so quickly, a spokesman for the administration is quoted as saying. The caucus process also benefited the sunnis, who stood little chance against the shiites in a general election.

In a general election, which according to the american timetable is not to take place until march 2005, the shiites, whose share of the population is an estimated 55 to 60%, were expected to win the long-awaited victory, which, as some caution, could bring civil war-like conditions to the country due to the conflicts between sunnis and shiites – or, as others argue, could lead to the "iranization of iraq" led.

Ali sistani, who is not said to have any closer ties to iran – "he is very independent", the british minister of state straw, speaking before a british committee on the question of whether iran had influence over iraq through sistani, said that he wanted to hold general elections as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the ayatollah, who is usually reticent on political matters, is threatening americans with a fatwa and a graduated strategy of resistance, from demonstrations to a general strike.

However, according to the arab gulf news commentator, it would be wrong for americans in washington and baghdad to take sistani too much at his word and interpret his call for elections as "definite rejection" understanding of the current plan:

This would be, i think, a dangerous misinterpretation not only of sistani’s intentions but also of the role that the shiite clergy should play in the future iran. To begin with: sistani’s claims are a "fatwa", which means that they have an "opinion" reflect, do not "decree" or a "edict", as u.S. Officials, paul bremer included", seem to believe.

No religious expert in islam had the authority to decree or edict. In shi’ism, as in islam in general, there is no pope or cardinals; believers would seek expert opinion, but also compare it with another and finally act on the basis of their own judgment, as a fundamental principle of islam dictates.

However, this principle had been challenged by a group of theologians, most notably ayatollah khomeini "been challenged", since they had claimed that most muslims, poor and illiterate, would lack the necessary skills, knowledge and moral fortitude to "to make correct decisions". These people, "mustazafeen" called what the "weak" khomeini said that the iraqis needed guidance and had been challenged "watch" the clergy.

Sistani was the last to claim that he had any authority to dictate to iraqis what they should and should not do.

It would be a higher irony if this old anti-khomeini cleric was turned into an iraqi version of khomeini by bremer and his people.

Accordingly, it would be wrong to call sistani a "political leader" of the iraqi shiites. You have to negotiate with iraqi politicians when it comes to political decisions. Sistani into politics is bad for iraq, for himself and for the coalition.

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