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[casi] What should we want?

Dear all

[This was written just before I saw Colin's latest mailing - the NYTimes
article "U.S. Rejects Iraqi Plan to Hold Census by Summer", December 4,
which is obviously highly relevant]

I think I'm beginning to get a clearish view of what I want to see happening
in Iraq.

The main thing from an international viewpoint is to prevent the
establishment of permanent US military bases that would be used to threaten
Iraq's neighbours; and also to wrest Iraq's economy out of the US grasp. The
only body with any hope of doing this would be an elected Iraqi Parliament.
It is perfectly possible, as the utterly admirable Ayatollah Sistani has
explained, to produce such a body quickly on the basis of the existing
ration system.

The objections I have seen are that some people were excluded from the
ration system because of opposition to the regime - it doesn't include
exiles - and it doesn't include the Kurds. The last point is really silly
since the Kurds have already held what they claim are free and fair
elections so they presumably have an electoral list. The exiles surely
should not be allowed a say until they have indicated their firm intention
to settle in Iraq (lists presumably exist of the exiles in neighbouring
countries under the care of the UNHCR). And it should not be difficult to
get some idea of who had been denied ration cards if only through an
advertisement in the papers.

A more serious objection is of course the position of the Sunnis vis a vis
the Shi'i majority. But that, I think, is a bullet that has to be bitten if
people are serious about democracy.

In the absence of a constitution that would settle the relations between the
different peoples concerned, however, it might be that this elected
Parliament would not have full sovereignty. But if the CPA or something like
it continues to exercise governmental functions the Iraqi Parliament should
be able to veto its decisions. The present situation in which it is the US
that exercises a veto over the Iraqis should be reversed.

The present proposal is for a transitional authority that would replace the
CPA in June 2004. Despite the weighted method of its appointment it should
not be assumed that this would be authomatically pro-US (ie favourable to
the establishment of the bases or the Americanisation of the economy) but it
will have very little moral authority and, very importantly, it does not
provide a political outlet for those who are at present willing to take up
arms to oppose the US presence. This - the establishment of an alternative
method of combat - should be an urgent priority for all those who want an
end to the present state of murder and mayhem.

The establishment of an elected Parliament strikes me as a much greater
priority than the removal of American troops. For the moment it is no bad
thing that the present disorder takes the form of a campaign directed
against foreigners rather than a settling of scores among Iraqis (though
there has probably been much more of that than we are told about). And it
keeps the US forces bogged down and therefore as yet unable to turn their
sights elsewhere.

What has to be prevented above everything else is that it should become a
civil war. That seems to me to be the clear danger of the new proposal for a
paramilitary force drawn from the Kurds and SCIRI (not to mention Chalabi
and Alawi). Perhaps we could hope that Sistani would prevent the Shia from
indulging such a thing, but how can the Kurds be so stupid as to put
themselves up as a hate target for the rest of the country? Are they just
after revenge against Tikrit (and is Barzani really involved in this
proposal? Or is it just Talabani?)

Best wishes


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