Sunday, January 18, 2004

Shiite Push: the Threat of Democracy: Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has emerged in Iraq as a genuine threat of democracy, for which the US has no answer as yet.

"Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the leader of Iraq's Shi'ites, isn't happy about the Coalition Provisional Authority plan to hold provincial "caucuses" of their handpicked stooges, who would then organize a government. Last summer the Ayatollah, spiritual leader of Iraq's 60-70% majority Shi'ites, issued a fatwa calling for direct, democratic elections to a constituent assembly, torpedoing an American scheme to write a Constitution first. Imperial proconsul Paul Bremer then came up with his caucus plan, which is now effectively blocked by the Ayatollah's veto."

"This malarkey about the lack of a reliable census is laughable. The Americans refused to cooperate with a plan by the Iraqis to take a census: Nuha Yousef, the Iraqi census director, guaranteed a count by December. But, as the New York Times reported, the occupation authorities nixed the plan. CPA spokesman Charles Heatly opined: "Rushing into a census in this time frame with the security environment that we have would not give the result that people want." Translated into plain English, what Heatly means is that a direct election would yield results that certain people in Washington don't want. And we can't have that!"

"The Ayatollah is holding fast to his demands that a direct election be held – and that the provisional government which results should have the power to rule on the question of a continuing U.S. military presence. And his position has popular support. Sistani scotched an earlier move for a made-in-the-USA Constitution, and the Americans, for all their firepower, can't stop him from sabotaging this one. Their neat plan to hand over fake "sovereignty" to their favored collaborators on July 1, all the while settling comfortably into permanent military bases on Iraqi soil, is running into some serious problems, even as the insurgency reaches into the previously peaceful Shi'ite south.... Short of pulverizing the country, or sending all the Ayatollahs off to Guantanamo – neither of which is an option – Bremer is stymied."

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