In his latest statement (registration required), Sistani demanded that elections should be held at the decided time without delay. He made it clear that he won’t support and would stand against any delay in elections. He also showed his willingness that She’at should stick together in the upcoming elections so that they would ensure they are represented in the way they deserve. He also wants Muqtatda to join and the stupid a** hole who still doesn’t know his feet from his head hasn’t decided yet or let’s say they didn’t decide for him yet.
What do all this mean and is it good or bad? Why would Sistani try to influence the elections when he had said previously that the Marjie’a won’t support any candidate? Sistani rarely interfered in such manner before and only acted rather late and when it was very necessary, so why the rush now months before the elections. Is he a fanatic that wants the She’at to rule Iraq? Some would say yes, but I don’t think so. Then how can one explain his attitude.
It’s not that easy to answer these questions, although the statement sounds bad and kind of fanatic, but generally I think it has some good aspects with some bad ones. First of all we should never underestimate how much the major She’at powers were longing for the day when they can seize the power from the minority that controlled Iraq for centuries; Arab Sunnis. She’at are still not that sure that they’re actually will be allowed to be the majority in any new government. It’s just too good to be true and it’s not impossible to understand their worries.
Let’s try 1st to look into the good part of Sistani’s statement. He urges Iraqis and mainly She’at to participate in the elections considering it a very important duty that no one should leave. This is a very good statement that will definitely increase the percentage of Iraqis voting in January which is an important factor to make it work. Regardless of whom Iraqis will vote for, any vote is truly important and will show Iraqis will to go through this hard route to future safety and progress. It doesn’t matter that much that some will vote just because Sistani ordered them and not because they believe in democracy, since as soon as democracy starts working there will be no need for such interference in the future and probably these votes won’t be even needed, as it’s not a failure to democracy in America if only 40% took part in an election but it is a failure for Iraq if less than say 50% voted. And while the recent polls still show that the majority of Iraqis will most likely vote but the percentage is lower than what it was in previous polls and thus statements like Sistani’s are of great importance in making more Iraqis aware of how important their votes are. A wider participation is essential in the first elections and will send a message to friends and enemies about how willing Iraqis are to make the change and how rewarding helping or opposing them will be.
Sistani’s message will have a big effect on not only She’at but also and most importantly it will have a great effect on the rebelling Sunni parties such as the Association of Muslim scholars and some groups of tribal men. The government has tried the carrot policy for a long time and it seems it’s now time for the stick. If these Sunni parties and tribal men want it this way then they should forget about any real share in Iraq’s future. This is mainly directed to some Sunni tribal men in the west and north west and to some organizations that support terrorists like the association of Muslim scholars. These parties will sense the fear that Iraq is going on its new road and they will be left back fighting a lost war against a very strong enemy losing allies day by day, and after elections are held and after forming a legitimate elected government, they will find themselves alone and deserted. Even their arab and Muslim brothers will find it very difficult to take their side against an elected government, at least not in public. They will turn from being the ‘legitimate resistance’ that everyone wants to finance and support to outlaws that everyone want to clean his history from anything connected to them.
It seems that Sistani’s last statement, together with the previous statements from the Iraqi government and the American administration that call for nation wide elections that might exclude only few unstable areas, these statements push towards convincing some reluctant Sunni groups and some radical Sunni clerics to reconsider their attitudes and probably join the elections.
Allawi seems fine with this ‘plan’ but it looks like Al Yawir is not very sure. There are rumors that powers and organizations like the ones mentioned above have approached Al Yawir, warned him against the growing influence of the She’at and the deteriorating position of the Sunni and promised him support in any future elections for the president of Iraq if he cooperates with them. Basically they want Yawir to take the responsibility of freeing some of the western hostages particularly the French in return for relieving the pressure on Sunni areas like Fallujah. This would show Yawir as a good politician with influence, will save the terrorists who are feeling the enormous pressure and would benefit from a truce, strengthen the position of the Sunni clerics who would lead the negotiations and would even benefit France and other anti-war countries showing that their peaceful policies do work. Al Yawir, although hasn’t cooperate fully yet, has showed recently that he may have fallen to this plan seeing that he needs to make a move to make his presence felt. Unfortunately he’s making the wrong kind of moves that I doubt will give him any advantage that may help his political carrier.
Hopefully the political and military pressure will convince most of these Sunni parties in joining the elections and stop all their destructive attitude. Could statements like this be a sign that some of them are actually listening? I’m still very skeptical but I hope I’m wrong.
The bad points are that a cleric, no matter who, can still affect the course of Iraq which shows that Iraq is still far from being a true democracy, but aren’t all first steps clumsy and far from being ideal? Yes, Iraq is very far from being a liberal democracy and that’s a reason to work harder on that, as Iraq still is the best candidate for social, educational and religious reforms in the ME with no dictatorship there to hinder it.
The other possible bad point is that Sistani may carry the threat and withdraw his support for the interim government and probably issues a fatwa against it. In my opinion this is a very remote possibility if it’s ever a possibility, as Sistani, has always stood by the interim government and by the multinational forces and with establishing democracy in Iraq. He, unlike Sadr and the “Association of Muslim scholars” is a reasonable and wise man who know the limits of his power and who cares for his people and would never even get near to issuing such disastrous fatwas. Besides he knows that the vast majority won’t follow him if he throws himself to the flame.
We should never under or over estimate the power of clerics in Iraq. They still have a considerable power but it’s a limited one and it’s getting less and less everyday. Take for example the government response to Sistani’s attempts to save Sadr, as although it led to some good results, I still think that we lost a golden opportunity to get rid of Sadr and his assistants and minimize the effect of all clerics in the way, and Sistani would’ve protested but he wouldn’t have gone farther than that.