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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #47 - 2 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Item 1: Sistani, Item 2 : Russia/Iraq/Annan (ppg)
   2. FW: To my anti-war friends. (Muhamed Ali)


Message: 1
From: "ppg" <>
To: <>
Subject: Item 1: Sistani, Item 2 : Russia/Iraq/Annan
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 17:15:29 -0500


Middle East

Method in Sistani's muscle flexing
By Ehsan Ahrari

Just as the United States thought it was over a major hurdle when the Iraqi
Governing Council (IGC) signed that country's interim constitution on March
7, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani threw a  wrench in the very process of
transfer of sovereignty due to take place on June 30. In a letter to senior
United Nations official Lakhdar Brahimi sent last Friday, the Shi'ite leader
stated that the interim constitution - also known as the transitional
provisional law - was a recipe for the breakup of the country, and that he
would not participate in upcoming meetings with UN officials if the world
body endorsed it. The Bush administration is left, once again, to figure out
its next move. This muscle-flexing by the astute ayatollah is not without a
purpose, though.

The interim constitution establishes a three-member presidency, one
president and two deputy presidents. The president is likely to be a Shi'ite
Arab, and the deputies will be a Sunni Arab and a Kurd. At the time of the
signing of the constitution, Sistani made clear his disapproval of two
clauses: one that gives effective veto power over a permanent constitution
to Kurds, and one which enables deputy presidents to reject the decisions of
a president. In fact, the Shiite members of the 25-member IGC stalled the
signing ceremony due to Sistani's opposition. In addition, Sistani considers
the three-member executive arrangement as institutionalizing sectarianism
and ethnicity in the future political process of Iraq. Thus, his conclusion
is that the new constitution "will lead to a dead end", that it will put the
country "in an unstable situation", and that it "could lead to partition and

The United States' backing of the interim constitution and Sistani's
opposition to it, in reality, represent two visions of Iraq that are
inherently contradictory and equally incompatible. As a Western pluralistic
democracy, the US operates on the age-old principle of "unity of diversity".
In Sistani's view, the Coalition Provisional Authority's promotion of
diversity in Iraq inexorably leads to diminution of the numerical strength
of the Shi'ites. To be precise, the three-member executive branch, instead
of guaranteeing the majority status of the Shi'ites of Iraq in the future
governmental arrangement, assigns them a lesser status - ie, as merely one
among three major sects, even though Shi'ites formulate over 60 percent of
the population.

Whether the US wishes to lessen the status of the Shi'ites or not, it is
very likely that by pluralizing the Iraqi presidency, Washington wants to
ensure that a Shi'ite-dominated Iraq would not become another Islamic
republic. So one cannot dismiss the perspective of Sistani that the US's
motives regarding this issue are not exactly benign. Why else would it
elevate the status of the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds by giving them one seat
each in the deputy presidency? The seeds of mistrust on both sides are about
to give birth to a bitter harvest of even more mistrust. Political
conditions seem to be ripe for the outbreak of major Shi'ite violence in

Iraqi leaders intend to ask the UN to legitimize the transfer of sovereignty
by passing a resolution. Sistani is afraid that the Bush administration will
exploit that opportunity to insert the endorsement of the interim
constitution into such a resolution. That is why he has made it clear that
any UN approval of the interim constitution would lead to his boycotting a
meeting with its officials, who are about to arrive in Iraq to craft the
interim authority that will take over power from the Coalition Provision
Authority at the end of June.

While the UN envoys are pondering the modalities of their response to the
ayatollah, the Bush administration is facing increased complexities in its
own endeavors to define the future role of the international community in
Iraq. The electoral defeat of the Jose Maria Aznar's government in Spain has
increased the necessity of the UN endorsement of the interim constitution so
that Spanish forces aren't withdrawn from Iraq. That was the condition
stipulated by the incoming socialist government of Spain. As the Bush
administration comes under increased scrutiny and criticism over its
handling of the "war on terrorism" both inside and outside the US, the
continued presence of Spanish troops in Iraq has become of considerable
symbolic significance.

But don't expect any help from Sistani for the Bush administration and its
predicament related to Iraq or the global "war on terrorism". He is fully
focused on using the US's own predilections for democracy to ensure a
legitimate and deserving dominant role for Iraq's Shi'ites in a future
democratic Iraq.

Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an Alexandria, Virginia, US-based independent
strategic analyst.

2.   Russian Information Agency

.2004-03-24 16:30     * RUSSIA * UN * SECRETARY-GENERAL * NEGOTIATIONS *


MOSCOW, MARCH 24, 2004, RIA NOVOSTI - The recent outburst of violence in
Kosovo *** and the post-Saddam rebuilding of Iraq**** are expected to
dominate the agenda of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's forthcoming talks
with Russian government officials in Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri
Fedotov revealed in a RIA interview Wednesday. Annan's visit to the Russian
capital is scheduled for April 4 through 6, he said.

"We have familiarized ourselves with the Secretary General's recommendations
concerning the conditions under which the UN could return to Iraq and
[resume its] work there," Fedotov explained. "One of the principled issues
will be the character of the government to be formed in Iraq in the
transition period after June 30 [that is, the date set for the handover of
power to an interim administration]." "There's no clarity on that so far,
but we expect the upcoming conversation with Kofi Annan to help [us] work
out a common approach to the issue," the senior Russian diplomat said.

Speaking of the possible involvement of Russia and Russian companies in the
post-war reconstruction of Iraq, Fedotov expressed hope that Russia would be
playing a prominent role in the new Iraq, including in such areas as
economics and trade.


Message: 2
Subject: FW: To my anti-war friends.
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004 10:23:24 -0000
From: "Muhamed Ali" <>
To: <>

Dear colleagues,
                Below is a different view from Baghdad. One year on, it
is worth comparing my own pre-war prognosis with this post-war outcome.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hiwa Osman []
Sent: 25 March 2004 08:00
Subject: Fw: To my anti-war friends.

> Below is the view from Baghdad.
> --------------------
> The Washington Times

> ----
> Reality check
> By Hiwa Osman
> Published March 24, 2004
> ----
> With the first anniversary of the war in Iraq, people supposedly
acting on
> behalf of the Iraqi people held demonstrations around the world to
> the liberation of the Iraqi people from the occupation.
>     Oddly enough, no major demonstration took place in Iraq. And this
at a
> time when Iraqis feel free -- for the first time in most of their
lives --
> to protest anything they are opposed to.
>     In the past, Iraqis gave the antiwar demonstrators outside Iraq
> benefit of the doubt. They figured that perhaps outsiders were
ignorant of
> the reality inside the country because global media were either not
> into Iraq or were heavily minded when they were here. Perhaps they
> misled by Saddam Hussein's propaganda or self-interested soft-ball
> coverage in some Western media or by some Arab satellite channels.
>     The sad truth, Iraqis now realize, is that the antiwar movement
> and still is not, motivated by any real concern for the
> rhetorical expressions to the contrary. Rather, they are driven by an
> anti-imperialism that in some cases in the past may have been be
> well-founded, but in this case is simply a knee-jerk reaction. It has
> obvious to the people of Iraq that this continuing antiwar effort is
> to score cheap domestic points.
>     No Iraqi today wants to hear whether going to war last spring was
> legitimate or not. It is simply irrelevant. As far as Iraqis are
> the war was one of liberation: no more mass graves, no more torture
> chambers, no more random arrests, detention and extrajudicial
>     A year has lapsed and the antiwar movement apparently remains
> to what the people of Iraq want.
>     Last year, they used to demonstrate and say, "No to the war." For
> Iraqis, this meant, "Yes to Saddam." This year, they are saying, "End
> occupation, leave Iraq, and bring our boys and girls home." For Iraqis
> means, leave the Iraqis to anarchy and chaos; leave the country to
> terrorists; leave them vulnerable to the interventions of neighboring
> who are threatened by a stable, rebuilding Iraq.
>     If the coalition left Iraq today, it would be disastrous. In 1991,
> Iraqis in Kurdistan were left to fend for themselves, unprepared for
> self-governing and unassisted -- in complete isolation of the rest of
> world, just as the antiwar camp is now proposing for all of Iraq.
>     Despite a democratic impulse that led the Kurds to quickly hold
> elections and develop a representative government, increased
> the neighboring countries and the weakness of democratic culture in
> Kurdistan led to a four-year civil war that only ended with the
> of the U.S. State Department in September 1998.
>     To Iraqis, this "occupation" is, so far, a safety net. One that
> them against the ill-intent of neighbors and the return of the old
> Despite miscalculations, mistakes and false starts, this "occupation"
> assisting the Iraqi people in its move toward a democratic system.
>     "Without the perseverance of L. Paul Bremer, it would have taken
> more years to get the Transitional Administrative Law signed," said a
> Governing Council member who witnessed the painful birth of the
> earlier this month.
>     In a recent survey conducted by Oxford Research International,
> percent of the Iraqi people thought that the occupation is the single
> biggest problem in their lives. Their biggest problem: the terrorists
> those who would snatch the opportunity for a possible fear-free and
> democratic life from their grasp.
>     For Iraqis, the choice between the terrorists and the occupation
> is a no-brainer. For better or for worse, the coalition is the only
> of the Iraqi people in the tough task of rebuilding a country
destroyed by
> the former regime.
>     The Iraqi say enough is enough. Antiwar demonstrators should put
> the empty rhetoric of "war is bad" and come and fight the good fight
> alongside the Iraqi people, who are engaged in the fight of their
>     It is time to take the high moral ground and admit
> power" was right this time.
>     Demonstrationsare easy. Many are staged in Iraq these days: to
> jobs, higher salaries, rights for women, better public services,
> de-bathification and against the "resistance fighters," who would
> allow such displays of public sentiment if they came to power.
>     But this anniversary was arealitycheckforall Iraqis. They stayed
> remembering how bad things were under Saddam.
>     Hiwa Osman is a Baghdad-based journalist.

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