1. Sunnis getting on board
2. insurgency is foerigners
3. Sistani still not interested in grabbing power
4. more secular parties jumping in ( translation: NO BURKAS or Sharia)
IRAQ'S DEMOCRATIC DIVISIONS
By AMIR TAHERI
September 26, 2005 -- THE next vote in Iraq is the Oct. 15 referendum on the nation's constitution, but the political elite is already turning its attention to the general elections scheduled for December.
Most Iraqi politicians now expect the constitution to be approved; fears have faded that Sunni Arabs might manage to vote it down. The optimism rises from several developments.
First, as more and more Sunni Arabs read the proposed text, now widely distributed, they realize it is not as bad as some of their self-styled leaders claimed. The latest suicide-killer attacks have also come as a wake-up call to Sunnis not to let terrorists provoke a sectarian war.
A passionate plea for national unity came Sept. 16 from Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaei, the spiritual leader of Sunni Arabs. Speaking at the Um al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad, al-Sumaidaei called for a national conference to find a common strategy against terror. "We don't need others to come across the border and kill us in the name of defending us," he said, a reference to Arab terrorists who have joined the insurgency under the banner of al Qaeda. "We reject the killing of any Iraqi."
Almost at the same time, a suicide-bomber, who turned out to be a Saudi, killed 12 worshippers at a mosque in Tuz Khormato, north of Baghdad. All those killed were Turcomans, proving al-Sumdaidaei's contention that the terrorists had embarked on a campaign of indiscriminate massacre.
The parading of captured Arab terrorists on TV has brought home another truth: The "insurgency" is mainly a foreign invasion by forces that wish to impose on Iraq a Taliban-style government. "The insurgency has nothing to do with Iraqis," says Adnan al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni Arab tribal chief and political leader. "[The terrorists] chased out of Afghanistan want to set up shop in Iraq."
Prospects for the constitution's passage have also improved as a result of a decision by the maverick cleric Muqtada Sadr not to call for a " no" vote. Sadr's group, Ansar al-Muqtada (Muqtada's Entourage), holds only three seats in the interim parliament, so it could not have seriously split the Shiite vote. But he could have undermined the constitution's authority by persuading some Shiites to join Sunni Arabs in voting against it.
Why Sadr changed is a mystery. One reason may be his hope of joining a coalition against the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) of Abdul-Aziz Hakim. Though related by centuries-old family connections, Sadr and Hakim have emerged as bitter political rivals. The feud between Hakim's SCIRI and Sadr's Ansar has gone beyond words to include the burning of each other's offices and, in unverifiable reports, a dozen murders.
Things are not going well for Hakim. Sunni Arabs single him out for attack as "Tehran's man," a groundless charge that, nevertheless, harms his standing. More significant: Hakim has failed to persuade Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shiites, to endorse a single list of candidates in December's elections, as he did last January.
Sistani says the position he took last January was a one-off because the assembly elected at the time had a single task: writing a new constitution. "Now that we have a constitution, any intervention [by Sistani] would be out of place," a close Sistani aide tells me. "All that the grand ayatollah wants is for the people of Iraq to elect whomever they want."
That means SCIRI, like other Shiite parties who stood and won massively on the single list last January, will have to sail under their own steam. The Shiite vote will be up for grabs not only by SCIRI and Sadr's Ansar, but also by half a dozen other parties, some secular.
More bad news for Hakim could come from within SCIRI: Some mid-level cadres are urging Adel Abdul-Mahdi, now Iraq's vice president, to form a new organization and join a coalition of Shiite and Sunni Arab parties. Such a coalition could include Vice Premier Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC) along with other secular Shiite groups, notably the Iraqi Communist Party. Abdul-Mahdi would be the favorite for premiership.
Also on the decline are the fortunes of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, now the prime minister. The two wings of his Al-Dawa (The Call) Party are expected to win no more than 13 percent of the December vote, which could knock him out of the premiership race.
That might put former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite, back in the running. His stature has risen since he left office last March, partly because of Jaafari's poor performance. Allawi has attracted support from secular Shiite who fear "an Iranian-style deviation," while some Sunni Arabs appreciate his opposition to a purge of former Baathists.
Could Allawi make a comeback as prime minister? The immediate answer must be no. But Iraqi politics are in flux; many combinations seem possible.
The Sunni Arabs are getting organized and could emerge as kingmakers in the future parliament. A new Sunni party called "People of Iraq," led by Dulaimi, has already attracted hundreds of supporters, including tribal chiefs, clerics and businessmen. Another group, led by Saleh Mutlak — a former rising star of the Ba'ath under Saddam Hussein — is also striking roots. And a third group, "Arab Iraqis," led by Hissam al-Ali, is seeking an electoral pact with Allawi's Iraqi National Alliance (INA).
Three other Sunni Arab groups have also emerged: "the Parliament of Patriotic Forces," led by former Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan; the Iraq Democratic Alliance, led by former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi; and the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab fundamentalist outfit backed by al-Sumaidaei and other clerics.
The campaign effectively gets under way next month, with party conferences in Baghdad, beginning with Allawi's INA.
One question mark concerns the Kurds. Last January, they fought with a single list of candidates, and, because they voted massively while some Sunni Arabs boycotted, won almost 30 percent of the seats — 50 percent more than their demographic strength. In December, they are expected to fight with at least three separate lists. That would add to the possibilities of coalition in forming the next government.
In Iraq today, there are two sides that matter beyond all else: On one side are more than two dozen democratic parties, preparing to contest elections under the auspices of the United Nations; on the other, mostly foreign terrorists determined that Iraq should not become a democracy.
The sooner we get the F out of Dodge the sooner things in Iraq will improve.
September 26, 2005 -- The next vote in Iraq is the Oct. 15 referendum on the nation's constitution, but the political elite is already turning its attention to the general elections scheduled for December.
As soon as the election in December is over we need to announce we're leaving!