Sistani to Consult with Kurds
US Seeks Direct talks with Muqtada
Az-Zaman: Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has decided to send a representative to Kurdistan to discuss the differences between him and the Kurdish leadership over Kurdish desires for a loose federalism that would give them substantial autonomy within Iraq. Sistani’s spokesman said that he wanted to reduce the feelings of anxiety and being slighted expressed by the Kurdish leaders and in the Kurdish street at Sistani’s stance. Sistani rejected any endorsement of the Transitional Administrative Law in the recently passed UN resolution, whereas the Kurds wanted the UN to back the TAL.
Veteran diplomat and superb Arabist Christopher Ross, who is in the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Outreach Department, has indicated a desire to meet with radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr for talks about the fate of the Mahdi Army militia. Previously the CPA had refused to deal with Muqtada directly, accusing him of having had rival cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei killed in April of 2003.
Ross’s request for a meeting may well be a sign that a more pragmatic set of officials from the State Department is beginning to take charge of such policies from the Neocon establishment that had dominated the Coalition Provisional Authority (and which had generally screwed up Iraq royally). On June 30, the real transition will be from Defense Department dominance of Iraq to State Department responsibility for Iraq. Since virtually nobody at the Pentagon knows anything serious about the Arab world, whereas State has fair numbers of Arabists and lots of experienced diplomats this transition is all to the good. The only question is whether it comes too late to do any good (see the item above about crowds dancing in the street around dead foreign contractors.