Saturday, April 17, 2004

'Democracy' in Iraq: "The United States has repeatedly refused to allow elections for the government that is to run Iraq when it regains sovereignty on July 1. For the United States, dealing with an elected body that would forcefully challenge coalition policies and demand a real say in running the country would be a battle of endless embarrassments. So the coalition has put democracy on hold until it can be safely managed. "

"It was earlier, in January and February, that the Rubicon was crossed and the groundwork laid for the April rebellion. That was when Mr. Bremer refused the renewal by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of his long-standing, urgent demand for elections. In reply, the religious leader mobilized hundreds of thousands into the streets to support his election call.

"The crisis was briefly defused when the Ayatollah turned to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to find a solution to the question of whether credible elections could be held by June 30, the date the United States had picked for the handover of sovereignty. With the help of one of the UN's most astute and trusted mediators, former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, Mr. Annan produced a report that concluded that the June 30 date should not be postponed, and that, therefore, there was not enough time to hold credible elections. Who knows what pressures the UN was under in making its deliberations? But its conclusion meant that the new Iraqi government would be picked under U.S. auspices.

"Ayatollah al-Sistani and most of Iraq were astounded at having been so comprehensively undercut by the United Nations: The man who had been instrumental in restraining an open Shia revolt had been made to look powerless and unable to deliver on a cardinal issue.... So the United Nations ended up intensifying the crisis it needed to resolve, appearing pro-U.S. again, and anti-Iraqi and anti-democratic to boot - a terrible mistake if the UN is to return to Iraq with any measure of credibility and, indeed, safety. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that the UN image has fallen to abysmally low levels in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and that it is vital that the organization correct its excessive U.S. tilt."

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