National Congress Postponed Fighting

National Congress Postponed

Fighting in Nasiriyah

In a sign that the political situation in Iraq is even worse than anyone had suspected, the caretaker Iraqi government has had to postpone the holding of national congress until mid-August. The complicated selection process for choosing delegates had favored the expatriate parties and politicians, and had stirred up bad feelings by important players who felt excluded. The Sunnis of largely Shiite Basra are among those constituencies that felt shortchanged by the process. So far no press reporting I have seen has given the full details of the floor fights in key cities, but apparently in some cases they have been vicious.

One group that feels shortchanged is the religious Shiites, whose parties have not been given the sort of representation their size and influence would merit. An aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, according to NPR, has urged Iraqi Shiites to be patient, and to put their hopes in the January 2005 elections.

The problem is that this postponement is not a good sign for the country’s ability to hold one person, one vote parliamentary elections only five months from now.

Meanwhile, Italian troops in Nasiriyah clashed with militiamen who tried to take control of two bridges into the city. The militiamen were not identified but are likely to be followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. These sorts of incidents suggest that PM Allawi really is just the mayor of downtown Baghdad, and that neither the Iraqi government nor the US-led coalition really are in control of Iraq’s cities. (-ash-Sharq al-Awsat)