Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Theocrats Riding Shambolic Elections

Juan Cole (who recently got into an amusing spat with a clueless American Likudnik pundit) is an invaluable source for his academic knowledge on Shi-ites and their region, as well as his regular translations of stories ignored by the mass media from Arabic (and Farsi) newspapers.

However, he still has glasses on that are rose-tinted for some issues, and shows signs of brief immersions into the faith-based community - mostly either when the issue is his some political forces among beloved Shi'a vs. some others, or when the issue is recognising the full extent of the trouble with US foreign policies (from Fallujah to Kerry). Especially if the two intersect (believing some US propaganda on Sunnis)

A recent hilarious example was when he prefaced a quote from independent journalist Dahr Jamail with stating he doesn't always agree with him, for example: "I don't think people were coerced to vote via their food ration cards" - whereas Jamail wasn't state his beliefs, but reporting stuff! (BTW, Raed Jarrar recently summed up vote-for-food evidence, including a causal quote in a Washington Post article where an election worker actually confessed such moves.)

Even more hilarious was this:

And this is my problem with the idea of just having the US suddenly withdraw its military from Iraq. What is to stop the neo-Baath from just killing Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Ibrahim Jaafari, Iyad Allawi...
Let's leave this neo-Baath stuff aside for a moment; how exactly does the US stop 'them' from attempting such killings right now?...

As for the neo-Baathist stuff, Cole is partly relying on the hunch of Scott Ritter, but just weeks after what Cole read and linked, Ritter had more thoughtful things to say (stealthily revising himself):

While the Americans and their SCIRI allies focused on bringing to heel former Baathists, the resistance morphed into a genuine grassroots national liberation movement where strategic planning may very well be the product of former Baathists, but the day-to-day tactical decisions are more likely to be made by tribal shaikhs and local clerics.

Until a recent post, it seemed to me that for Cole, the script was that this are flawed elections likely to ignite sectarian conflict, but that he still welcomed it for advancing his favored 'moderate' and 'responsible' Shi'a clerical leaders into power, unlike Sunni counterparts on whom he commented as making unwise moves. As I see it, there is nothing unwise about the AMS et al not bowing their head to a system where Sunnis live by the grace of Shi'a clerics (the persistent image of the enlightened despot!...), who themselves rule thanks to and by the grace or after the pullout of foreign troops.

And I don't think Sistani & co are 'responsible', I think every evidence shows they play a cynical game for (especially post-US-withdrawal) power, which is not only obvious from the fact that mullahs threatened with punishment in heaven if believers do not vote. It can be seen from the unrepresentative composition of the United Iraqi Alliance list: the largest fraction are 'independents' who owe it all (and hence will likely be loyal) to no one but Sistani, then Chalabi who wouldn't get ten votes is represented, Daawa and the much less popular (because Iran-linked) SCIRI get the same share on the list, while SCIRI even gets a bonus share under another name: as the 'Badr Organisation', which is a new name for the Badr Corps, SCIRI's US-ignored militia.

But now Cole fessed up, and collected a lot of stuff on the Shi'a clerics asserting power by posing ultimatums to the future (third) puppet government.


At 1:14 AM, Blogger FransGroenendijk said...

I followed and read your link to Juan Cole on Sistani:
"He sees no problem with a prime minister who is secular, because the current phase means that it must be a politician with experience and this is not taught in Koranic schools,” said the source. The source said Sistani “does not want Iraq to be an Islamic republic like Iran because the “velayat e-faqih’ is not an established tradition in this country.” Velayat e-faqih was the ruling principle of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led Iran’s Islamic revolution, and put clerics at the heart of all decision-making. Of course I am no supporter of Sistani but I still have the impression that he is different from Sadr or Khomeiny. This is based on what on his own site is written about "his method". He wants a modern Islam. I want to see him (and all 'religious' leaders) as the leader of a political group. I can not be outraged by the fact that after success in elections he wants influence on the constitution to be.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger DoDo said...

I would have preferred an election in which Daawa, SCIRI and other groups, as well as anti-occupation groups like the Sadrists would have competed against each other (not to speak of further political groups that don't have militias).

At 4:21 PM, Blogger DoDo said...

On the point of difference between Sadr's, Khomeini's, and Sistani's form of theocracy: I don't think they are a matter of degree or quality.

Khomeinism didn't put the State under direct clerical rule either, for there is an elected President, Parliament and a government - but the clerics 'superwise' and can overrule the democratic institutions, and this power goes with an official title.

Sistani's above words are quite scholastic: he is not talking about the essence of clerical rule, but the actual form it takes in Iran. Yet, what he wants, is basicaly the same, only in a less explicite form: rather than having a title, he wants the State to base its law on Islam, and politicians defer to the (Shi'a) Ayatollah's rulings based on Islam.

Sadr wants a more officially expressed clerical rule, on the other hand, unlike Sistani, he at least attempts to bridge sectarian divides following a nationalist agenda.

Finally, a token note: I state again that I can't see a single sympathetic politician or movement with any weight in Iraq at present.


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