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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] http://www.iprospect.org.uk/na8sep.html IPO's Iraq News Analysis September 8, 2004 - After the Najaf standoff, many analysts and politicians have been left wondering what Sayyid Sistani's resolution to the conflict means for Iraq's political future? While many agree the intervention was positive and necessary, some analysts are alarmed by the involvement of a religious authority in a political matter and are uncomfortable with the apparent blurring of the line between mosque and state. Sistani has entered the political debate before when in June 29 last year he issued a fatwa which proclaimed that Iraq's National Assembly which will draft the country's permanent constitution must be selected through general elections. While Sistani has repeatedly declared he does not want a political role he has continually stressed that "the people" must be the final arbiters for Iraq's political system. Iraq must decide what form of secularism it wishes to adopt. If separation between religion and politics is sought - i.e. where men and women of religious authority are not permitted to work within the political arena and religious political parties are banned - then Sistani's actions are clearly a breech of this. However, if secularism is to mean a separation of religion and state, where religious personalities and religion-based political parties are allowed to operate in the political arena as long as they are confined to the same limits as every other politician and political party, then Sistani's actions are not anti-secular. Such an arrangement is clearly different to what is practiced in countries such as Iran where unelected religious authorities have powers over and above those of elected officials. In fact, it can be argued that Sistani's fatwa last year was in essence a secular assertion that established "the people" as the ultimate authority within Iraq's political system. - The towns and villages just south of Baghdad have in recent months become strongholds for Wahabi extremists. Two French hostages were kidnapped here, the Minister for Religious Endowment, Hussein al-Shami, and INC leader, Ahmed Chalabi, both escaped assassination attempts within the same week. A senior aide of Muqtada al-Sadr was also assassinated there as he was returning to his home in Baghdad. In May 2004, Salama al-Khufaji, who was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, survived an assassination attempt that claimed the life of her teenage son in the same area. Wahabi terrorists are emerging as possibly the greatest threat to Iraqi security and democracy. Their disregard for human life is evident from their actions around the world as Wahabi ideology is the basis of groups such as al-Qaeda and the hostage takers in Russia. The fact that their sworn enemies are Shia Muslims, which constitute over 60% of Iraq's population, makes this an incredibly dangerous cocktail that must be overcome if stability is to be established. - Leading up to the Republican Party convention, President Bush was being urged by some in his party to shift the focus away from Iraq. With the constant barrage of negative news coming out of Iraq, many who supported the ouster of Saddam Hussein are losing hope of seeing a stable, democratic Iraq and are beginning to question their initial judgment. Rep. congressman Doug Bereuter recently said, "it was a mistake to launch that military action." The continued unrest in the Sunni-triangle and parts of Baghdad does not seem to be resolving. There are no signs that by January, when Iraqis are supposed to have their first general elections, that the situation will have improved. In fact, if the trends of recent months are anything to go by, things may actually get worse. This leaves open the question as to whether it is actually wise to wait till January before going ahead with elections. It is highly likely that security will improve in Iraq after elections since Iraqis will no longer feel indifferent, as they do now, to the interim administration and will assume a collective responsibility for making things better with a government that they elected. For President Bush, the difference will be between Americans going to poll with an unstable and volatile Iraq or an unstable Iraq that has just held its first ever elections. News Analysis brought to you by the Iraqi Prospect Organization: http://www.iprospect.org.uk Promoting democracy for Iraq _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk