Sciri Adopts Sistani Emphasizes

SCIRI Adopts Sistani, emphasizes Iraqiness
Bombings kill 26, wound 60

The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq held its annual party convention on Thursday and Friday and, according to Mariam Karouny of Reuters has decided to make some significant changes. They will drop the part of their party platform where they say that they take guidance from Iran’s Supreme Jurisprudent, Ali Khamenei. Instead, they say they will be guided by the fatwas of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites.

This change has ideological consequences. Allegiance to Khamenei implies acceptance of the Khomeinist doctrine of Vilayat-i Faqih or the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent. It holds that political power should be held by a top theocrat. SCIRI’s links to Khamenei also implied that the Jurisprudent’s authority is transnational, reaching from Iran to Shiites in other countries, such as Iraq. But most Iraqi Shiites reject the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, and even those who accept some version of it for the most part reject the idea that Khamenei has authority outside Iran.

Sistani rejects the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent in politics and government, but accepts it with regard to what he calls “the structure of society.” That is why he intervened on matters such as whether Iraq would have one person, one vote elections, who would write its constitution, and whether the constitution would uphold Islamic law. But unlike Khamenei, Sistani has not the slightest interest in holding an official government position, much less ultimately being in charge of trash collection.

SCIRI will also change their name to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, dropping the “revolution” element, they say, because that was a reference to their struggle against Saddam.

The changes clearly are aimed at Iraqizing the party, which was formed in 1982 at the suggestion of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran. It has all along been very close to the ayatollahs in Tehran, and is viewed by nativist Iraqi Shiite parties such as the Sadrists and the Da’wa as having a strong Iranian tinge.

It should be remembered that the American public went wild with enthusiasm when the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq more or less won the January, 2005, parliamentary elections and 9 of 11 provinces where there are substantial Shiite populations– including Baghdad. I just never could understand why the American Republican Party was so happy about a party loyal to Khamenei taking over Iraq. And they were snippy about it, too.

Al-Zaman adds its own analysis. Ahmad al-Musawi says that his sources in SCIRI told him that the changes made at the party convention look forward toward the next election. The United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of 17 Shiite religious parties that is led by SCIRI, has been falling apart. The Islamic Virtue Party or Fadhila pulled out its 15 MPs, and the Sadrists (32 seats) keep going in and out. It is also possible that SCIRI’s remaining ally, the Da’wa Party, led by PM Nuri al-Maliki, will fall out with them.

The implication is that in the next elections, the Supreme Council may run as a list rather than under the rubric of the United Iraqi Alliance. There are two important elections on the horizon. One is the provincial elections, which were never held again after January 2005 (the Sunni Arabs did not participate in that round). The other is the next elections for the federal parliament, in fall of 2009 (not that far away). In fact, the US will probably be getting out of Iraq in 2009, and SCIRI may be positioning itself to take over decisively.

The party convention also confirmed Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim as party leader, and added 50 new members to the party politburo (Shura), replacing those who retired or had died.

Their party platform will henceforth make reference to principles such as democracy and elections. (Initially, SCIRI had been a clerical vanguard party closer to Leninism than Jeffersonian democracy).

In other news, Reuters reports that

‘ Suicide truck bombers struck Iraqi police checkpoints on two bridges in a Shi’ite area south of Baghdad, killing [26] people and badly damaging one of the bridges. Police said 60 people were wounded.

* TAIJI – A truck bomb hit a bridge near the town of Taji on the main highway connecting the capital with cities in the north, an Iraqi army source said, adding the attack was followed by a car bomb that killed four Iraqi army soldiers there. ‘

Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that 7 bodies were found in Falluja.

Extensive petroleum smuggling may be depriving the Iraqi government of revenues and providing them to insurgents.

The southern city of Basra is at the meeting place of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but its inhabitants have to line up to buy unsanitary water and to transport it in plastic bottles to their homes.

Patrick Cockburn at Tomdispatch.com on “Iraq Dismantled.”

Some Dems in Congress are concerned that the Iraq supplemental does not recognize Iraq’s sovereignty over its own petroleum.

I don’t think these Dems understand why W. is in Iraq.