[R-G] Shia leaders call off protests. back UN role; Chalabi bacls election call
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jan 24 13:03:18 MST 2004
AlWith the possible exception of the unions, which I know little
about, all sections of the Iraqi population who are resisting the
occupation have bourgeois leaderships. That includes the Shiites and
Sunni-based armed resistance. That means they all pursue particular
bourgeois class interests through the struggle. In most semicolonial
countries this was true in the original fight for independence itself.
Only in a minority of the cases was there major
revolutionary-nationalist or working-class leaderships.
Maneuvering with the occupation and attempts to demobilize the masses
are built into this situation. We have to not romanticize the
situation. But we also should not demand that the situation be
romantic before we will recognize the reality of the struggle and the
fact that some gains have been made. At present -- there may be an
attempt to reverse this after the US elections -- there is an overall
tendency of the imperialist occupation to weaken and retreat in the
face of the very broad overall resistance of the peoples of Iraq.
We are not going to learn how a Chavez or Castro or Ben Bella-type
leadership would function in this situation, because there is none
there to teach us at present. It is important to assess the situation
realistically, but it is even more important to reject every trace of
sectarianism toward the real process by which the Iraqi masses, in
this extremely difficult situation of occupation by the world's one
imperialist giant, are pursuing the fight to assert and win their
Unconditional opposition to the US war and occupation, and to UN
intervention to prop it up, should not become an excuse for refusal to
support the complex and difficult struggle that the peoples of Iraq
are actually carrying out. Fred Feldman
The New York Times
January 24, 2004
New Pressures Over U.S. Plan for Iraqi Rule
By EDWARD WONG
AJAF, Iraq, Jan. 23 Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric asked his
followers on Friday to suspend demonstrations demanding direct
elections, even as a prominent political leader joined the call for
The cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, asked his followers to
wait while the United Nations decided whether to send a team to Iraq
to weigh whether early direct elections were possible.
The growing chorus of calls for direct elections signaled increasing
trouble for plans by the American occupation authorities to turn over
sovereignty to Iraqi representatives in June without a popular vote.
Ayatollah Sistani, who lives off a narrow alleyway here in Najaf,
delivered his message through a representative at a mosque in Karbala,
a holy city nearby.
Last Monday, before American and Iraqi officials met at the United
Nations to discuss Ayatollah Sistani's demands, as many as 100,000
people marched through Baghdad in support of the cleric. It was the
largest demonstration in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's government was
ousted in April, and it came as Shiite religious leaders were
beginning to realize their enormous influence on American policy here.
American officials still insist they will hold caucus-style ballots in
Iraq's 18 provinces to select members of a transitional assembly,
though they have said they are willing to make some changes in this
mechanism. L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator in Iraq,
has repeatedly said there is not enough time to organize direct
elections before June 30.
But a prominent member of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ahmad Chalabi,
contested that view in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute
in Washington. "Elections are possible," he said. "Seek to make them
possible, and they will be possible."
Mr. Chalabi, who has had strong backing from the Pentagon, added that
the caucuses proposed by American officials were a "sure-fire way to
have instability" because they would result in a transitional assembly
Direct elections would favor Shiites, who make up more than 60 percent
of the population in Iraq.
American and United Nations officials, who refused to be identified
publicly, expressed irritation at Mr. Chalabi's comments. They said
his true agenda was to feed the current impasse over the transition to
self-rule in the hope that the United States would eventually empower
the Iraqi Governing Council, on which he serves.
Mr. Chalabi joins other Shiite members of the Governing Council in
calling for direct elections. Ibrahim Jafari, head of the Dawa Islamic
Party, said Wednesday that he favored direct elections. Mowaffak
al-Rubaie, an independent member of the council, said in an interview
on Thursday that the caucuses would result in an illegitimate
Adnan Pachachi, the current chairman of the council and a Sunni Arab,
has said he does not think quick direct elections are possible. He has
reportedly asked the Bush administration to reach a compromise by
expanding the Governing Council to 125 members, from 25, and turning
it into an interim legislature.
Ayatollah Sistani has said that if the United Nations sent a team of
experts to assess whether elections could be organized quickly, he
would listen closely to their opinions. That helps explain why he has
called for calm as Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general,
continues to weigh whether to send such a mission here.
"This issue concerns all the sects that comprise the Iraqi people,"
Abdul-Mehdi al-Karbali, a representative of Ayatollah Sistani, said
Friday at the mosque in Karbala, according to The Associated Press.
"Sunnis, Christians and all other sects are urged to support the
religious order in its position, so that the occupation forces will
not adopt any steps that serve their interests and that do not serve
the interests of the Iraqi people."
Protests can be held later if needed, he said, adding that the most
senior clerics in Iraq were supporting a halt to demonstrations.
In an interview in Najaf on Friday, the son of one of those clerics
said getting a United Nations electoral assessment team here was
"Who will supply legitimacy to the new government?" said Muhammad
Hussein al-Hakim, the son and spokesman of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad
Said al-Hakim. "I think you will agree with me when I say the U.N. or
the rule of the U.N."
In Baghdad, a two-person team composed of a military adviser and a
security coordinator arrived on Friday to assess safety conditions on
the ground for United Nations' Iraqi staff members and for the
eventual return of its international workers, United Nations officials
Their presence was unrelated to Mr. Annan's pending decision on
whether to send an electoral assessment team, a spokesman said. He
added that a separate security team would have to prepare the ground
for that mission.
American diplomats at the United Nations expressed frustration at the
delay in sending experts to assess the prospects for elections. "The
U.N. said they wanted to have a significant role in the country, and
now that we have offered them one, they seem to be dragging their
feet," a senior American official said.
Lakhdar Brahimi, who has just returned from two years as the United
Nations special envoy to Afghanistan, was invited to Washington on
Thursday, where President Bush joined in the campaign to enlist him
for Iraq, according to a senior United Nations diplomat.
Mr. Brahimi also met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; the
national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice; and her aide on Iraq,
Robert Blackwell. Mr. Brahimi told them he was not available and
intended to take time off before taking up his new position as Mr.
Annan's special adviser on peace and security, the diplomat said.
In late August, a suicide truck bomb exploded at the headquarters of
the United Nations in Baghdad, killing 22 people. By October, the
United Nations had withdrawn all its foreign workers, and Mr. Annan
has said the tenuous security situation is the main reason the United
Nations is reluctant to return.
Violence continues in Iraq.
A bomb planted at a branch office of the Iraqi Communist Party in
Baghdad exploded on Thursday, killing two people and destroying much
of the office. Eleven people, including two American soldiers, were
killed in various attacks on Thursday, continuing a deadly string of
assaults that began Sunday with a suicide car bombing at the American
John H. Cushman Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad for this
article, Warren Hoge from the United Nations and Steven R. Weisman
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