Shiite Parties Seek Power in National Assembly
Defense Minister slams Iran
Ashraf Khalil writes for the Los Angeles Times that the Shiite al-Da’wa Party is making an alliance with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq in hopes of having significant influence in the 100-person Iraqi National Assembly to be elected at a convocation of 1000 notables to be held next week.
So far the religious parties are the main representatives of the Shiite majority in Iraq, and they seem likely to dominate any fairly elected parliament this winter.
Actually, the national congress will only elect 80 representatives. The other 20 will be members of the US-appointed Interim Governing Council. It is of course undemocratic that these appointees should be grandfathered into a body that is otherwise elected, and this undemocratic element is another example of the long arm of US proconsul Paul Bremer and his bosses in the Department of Defense.
Meanwhile, Minister of Defense Hazem Shaalan told al-Zaman he had evidence that Iran had given further training to militant Muslims who had fought in Afghanistan and then had given them free passage into Iraq. He cited in particular an Iran-backed Sudanese guerrilla who had been captured with a large amount of poison that he had intended to dump into the water supply of the southern town of Diwaniyyah. He said Iran had infiltrated spies into Iraq and had penetrated every part of the Iraqi government. Shaalan was contradicted by Iraqi ambassador to Washington, Rend Rahim Franke, who maintained that the Iranians had detained some 200 radical fighters trying to transit to Iraq from Afghanistan.
Shaalan’s charge of Iranian infiltration of the government is reminiscent of McCarthy-era fears in the US of Communist infiltration. He seems more excercised by the issue than virtually anyone else in the government. I wonder if, as a secular Iraqi Shiite, he is worried about the coming potential dominance of religious Shiite parties, supported by Tehran. If so, charges of an Iran connection could be employed to exclude some Shiite parties or figures from the political process on grounds of treason.
Al-Zaman also reports that an official in the Secret Police protested rumors that the reconstituted security service had hired back large numbers of Baathist agents. He said that ex-Baathists were no more than 5% of the new Secret Police, and that they had not been Saddam’s men nor did they have blood on their hands.
Personally, I find it implausible that there were agents of the Iraqi secret police that were not Saddam’s men and who did not have blood on their hands.