Monday, January 12, 2004

Top Shiite cleric Sistani continues to demand elections: "Iraq's most revered Shi'ite leader insisted Sunday that democratic elections must he held within months... Officials from the U.S.-appointed Governing Council went to the Shi'ite Muslim city of Najaf Sunday to meet Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and try to persuade him to back the U.S. plan... Sistani wants the transitional assembly to be directly elected, and is not backing down from his stance."

"The ideal mechanism for this is elections which a number of experts confirm can be held within coming months with an acceptable degree of credibility and transparency," Sistani's office quoted him as telling the Governing Council delegation. "If the transitional assembly is formed by a mechanism that doesn't have the necessary legitimacy then it wouldn't be possible for the government to perform a useful function...New problems will arise as a result of this that will only worsen the tensions in the political and security situation."

If the insurgency continues the US may be forced to accept the demands for democracy and autonomy being made by the Shiites and the Kurds. This may be the best possible chance of Iraq actually achieving democracy and decentralisation. But the tensions arises at the point that insofar as the Iraqis regain independence and democracy, the main US objectives, US military bases and control of the oil industry and economy, are placed at risk.

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