Al-Hakim to US: Stop Stalling on Elections
AP reports that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has demanded that the US stop “stalling” a national election in Iraq. Al-Hakim has been willing to cooperate with the Americans, but is impatient with Paul Bremer’s repeated assertions that the country is more than a year away from direct elections. Al-Hakim’s diction echoes that of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, to whom he is close.
In Karbala, the Coalition Provisional Authority gave in to popular demand, and said that the new 40-person provincial council recently appointed by the Americans would be subjected to a vote of religious leaders and notables. I’m confused by this story, since US AID had asked the Research Triangle Institute to form these councils in association with local notables. So why was CPA official John Perry appointing a new council now, by fiat?
Some of the impatience Shiite leaders such as Sistani and al-Hakim evince with US “stalling” on elections derives from the high-handed and authoritarian way the US has behaved with regard to governance in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The first US-appointed mayor of Najaf was a Sunni Baathist officer, who went on to kidnap Shiite notables and hold them for ransom!
Meanwhile, Shiites began the mourning rituals of the month of Muharram in Karbala. They commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the hands of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid in 680 CE (AD). This is an emotionally fraught season, which in some countries has been attended by some Sunni-Shiite violence (Yazid ruled before classical Sunnism took form, but many Shiites see him as a Sunni oppressor of their holy Imam or religious leader).