Al-Qubanji: Give us Indepencence
AFP/ Ash-Sharq al-Awsat: Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji, a Friday prayers leader in Najaf, called on Persident George W. Bush on Friday to keep the promises he had made to the Iraqis, of “independence and the return of sovereignty.” He demanded, at the same time, that Iraq not be turned into an arena of contention between the United States and Iran.
Al-Qubanji said before thousands of worshippers at the Great Fatimah Mosque, most of whom belonged to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, that “Iraqis expect many things of these [American] elections, and at their head the promises made of independence and the return of sovereignty.” He added, “We insist and affirm, rather we resist, on behalf of indepencence and the implementation of these promises. The Iraqis are perfectly capable of administering their own country, and we expect the American administration to be truthful in its promises.”
On another subject, al-Qubanji pointed to “the information that has reached us concerning the statements from high officials in the Iraqi state condemning this country or that among our neighbors. We do not want to see disputes among countries extended such that Iraq becomes an arena for settling those disputes.” He added, “We do not deny the existence of disputes between the United States and the Islamic Republic in Iran, but it is not right for Iraq to be the arena of contention, just as we do not want to make enemies of other countries through [intemperate] statements . . . Our policy toward neighboring countries is founded upon love, cooperation, and respect for the policies of all countries, and refusal to interfere in their affairs, and safeguarding mutual interests.”
He said that the forthcoming Iraqi elections must be fair and aboveboard. He suggested that all Iraqis join together in preserving security and ensuring their uprightness. He included tribespeopole, university students, and mosques, saying they should help guard polling stations. He said that the Interior Ministry could issue a call for such volunteers, since there was a lack of regular police and of arms for them.
The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is an umbrella group of old-time forces opposed to Saddam Hussein. It allied with the US to overthrow Saddam, and its paramilitary, the Badr Corps, has an estimated 15,000 trained men under arms.
SCIRI is close to Tehran and clearly is disturbed by the rehabilitation of Baathists by the Allawi government, along with Baathist-like hardline rhetoric against Iran, which has been especially characteristic of Minister of Defense Hazem Shaalan. Although Prime Minister Allawi resisted this temptation at the beginning, he also has begun issuing warnings to Iran, as he did again in Europe on Friday.
That a putative ally of the US like SCIRI is essentially warning Bush of dire consequences if the Iraqis don’t get true independence soon is a bad sign.