*Jay Garner has added two further members to a nine-man leadership council (it is so far all men). One will represent the Shiite al-Da`wa Party and the other is a Sunni Arab representing an old party active in the 1940s until 1968 when it was banned. This move is a good step in the right direction. My contacts in Iraq swear up and down that virtually no one there much likes the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which they code as Iran-backed. But SCIRI was the only Shiite party included in the leadership council at first. The al-Da`wa Party has lots of bona fides. Although an Iranian-backed splinter group from al-Da`wa attacked US embassies in the Gulf in the mid-1980s, the mainstream of the movement has not been terrorist in character. It seems strong in Nasiriya and has opened offices all over the Shiite south. Its members opposed Saddam. It rejects Khomeini’s theory of the “Rule of the Jurisprudent.”
The next thing that is desirable is for more moderate elements in the Sadr Movement to be drawn into the governmental process. So far they have been anti-American and standoffish. But then so initially was al-Da`wa. I don’t advocate that the Sadrists necessarily have a seat on the interim governing council, but they should be drawn into compromise and horse trading somehow. Some suggest that Muqtada and the Sadrists will fade as order is restored. While this possibility exists, it would be foolish to count on it. The Shah thought that Khomeini would fade away after 1963, too.
In addition, four parties have agreed to join in with the planning of a national congress, including al-Da`wa, the Communist Party, the Arab Socialist Party, and the Iraqi Islamic Party.
The Iraqi Islamic Party has a Web site in Arabic, and if it is the same organization (I guess there cannot be two such), it is Sunni fundamentalists willing to participate in parliamentary democracy. They have cleverly bought the domain name, www.iraqi.com, which should give them high visibility. They have posted to their site joint fatwas authored in part by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who came out of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. One condemns US policy after September 11 for “targetting” Muslim regimes. Another criticizes Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. IIP officials in Mosul have called for the early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and have pledged to fight against secular influences from Baathism, Communism, and so forth. (It is therefore ironic in what company they find themselves in today’s announcement). They also formed a front to end US occupation. The mystery of why Garner would turn to them and why they would accept to be turned to is tantalizing. There is some evidence, in Falluja, Mosul, Baghdad and elsewhere in the Sunni Arab center, of a powerful fundamentalist current among Iraqi Sunnis. Again, I’m all for drawing such groups into parliamentary give and take, which is likely to keep them moderate. But I hope they haven’t been promised anything a priori to get them aboard.
The Iraqi Communist Party for its part pledges to fill the current political vacuum in Iraq with a democratic alternative. They also want to see that the millions of Iraqis who need them get food, electricity, security, etc. I.e. they are speaking as though they are like Berlinguer’s Communist Party in Italy, more democratic socialist than Stalinist. See (in Arabic) www.iraqcp.org.
My suspicion is that the ICP has far more support in Iraq than does Kamil Nasir Chadurchi, the representative of the old lapsed Sunni secular party, and so deserved to be in the top nine. But given how conservative Garner is, I suppose it is amazing that they have been accepted into having any role at all.
Earlier press reports had suggested that Garner was against having any further Shiite representation on the nine man leadership council, beyond SCIRI. If those reports were true, then he has obviously changed his mind or his staffers have briefed him better. I’d say these steps are positive. But I would have been happier if the 9 man council had been elected from the floor of an Iraqi congress, not appointed by an American former general. It also seems odd that he is making these appointments on the eve of the arrival of Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator who will be most involved in the political process.
*There was a riot yesterday in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala that almost no one reported in the US, in which former Baath supporters demonstrated and staged a sitdown because they had been excluded from the city’s ruling council (which consists of tribal sheikhs and clerics). The crowd was dispersed when local authorities had men fire warning shots over their heads.