Muqtada: Elections will Divide Iraqis
Sistani Rep: Beware of Voter Fraud
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat: Shaikh Abd al-Mahdi al-Karbala’i, representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Karbala, said in his Friday sermon, “We affirm the necessity of holding elections on time, since they are a guarantee of unconstrained sovereignty, and so as to elect a leadership that represents the will of the people, and so as to end the Occupation. At the same time, we insist on the need to hold the elections in a fair and just manner, otherwise they will be fruitless. Indeed, they may backfire on the Iraqi people if there is any cheating or fraud.” He added, “We warn against such a consequence, since it will drag the country into a cycle of public disorder and disturbance worse than the present situation, and the people will even lose their confidence in the present leadership.” He emphasized that “all must participate, to make the elections a success.”
I take away from all this that Sistani is worried that Iyad Allawi and his American sponsors will attempt to hijack the election through some sort of voter fraud.
Az-Zaman further notes that the grand ayatollahs in Najaf issued a demand that King Abdullah II of Jordan apologize for his comments to the Washington Post, which painted the Iraqi Shiites as mere cat’s paws of the Iranian state. They complained that the king’s remarks constituted “naked interference in Iraqi internal affairs” and could have the effect of provoking communal tensions. They pointed out that the Iraqi Shiites are Arabs, and intimated that foreign influence in Iraq is coming instead from its Sunni Arab neighbors. (This last is a reference to the widespread Shiite belief that Saudi Wahhabis are supporting Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq.)
The article also reported comments of Muqtada al-Sadr: “Over here you have America shelling cities for the sake of security and the elections, and over there you have the parties that are alleging that elections will help establish security and stability, forgetting the existence of the Occupation.”
He said the Sadrists were not participating in the elections because their officials kept being arrested, they were not given permission to open an office in Najaf or to hold Friday prayers in the Kufa Mosque, or to recover the mosques that they used to manage, as well as because of the lack of security in several Iraqi cities.
Az-Zaman: Muqtada al-Sadr warned that the elections scheduled for January 30 will lead to the ethnic partition of Iraq. He wrote in a sermon delivered for him by Shaikh Abd al-Zuhrah al-Suway’idi at the Muhsin Mosque in Sadr City, “They allege that the elections advance security, and security advances the elections. This is false and wrong.” Announcing his boycott of the elections, he said, “Beware, beware lest ethnic divisions have a place in the elections. I want only a noble Iraqi election, neither Shiite nor Sunni. However, Iraq can protect for me my religion, my honor, my unity.”
Muqtada also offered to protect Iraq’s churches, some of which have been attacked in Baghdad and Mosul. “I am entirely prepared to provide protection to the churches if our Christian brethren want it.” He assured them he would not interfere in their affairs: “Rather, the guards would be solely in their service.”
The Financial Times gives some more of Muqtada’s sermon:
‘ “The elections aim to separate the Iraqi from his religion. When people vote for politicians, secularists, those who co-operate with the occupation – they will not think of God,” said Mr Sadr in a letter read out by one of his deputies in north Baghdad’s al-Muhsin mosque. “Do not make politics your way, and do not let the marjaiya [Shia clerical establishment] support the elections,” the leader’s message said. However, in a sign of tensions in his movement some of his followers said that they would cast their votes anyway. ‘
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat: Gunmen attempted to kill Yahya Hashim al-Husaini, an official of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, in the northern district of al-Hilla at around 10 am on Friday. They only succeeded in wounding him with gunfire and putting him in the hospital.
On Thursday, unknown assailants had killed Sattar Jabbar, a candidate on the 228-member United Iraqi Alliance list (largely Shiite). Jabbar was a leader of the Hizbullah Party of Iraq (not related to the Lebanese party of the same name), a close ally of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. (Correction: this Hizbullah Party of Iraq is not connected, either, to the party of the same name that groups the Marsh Arabs.)
On Friday, wire services reported that gunmen shot down three more members of the Hizbullah Party of Iraq. This violence came on top of attacks in Baqubah and Tikrit on Iraqi National Guards, which left 9 of them dead in addition to 4 civilians. US troops suffered two dead and other casualties as a result of a helicopter crash in Mosul.
One fears that the attacks on SCIRI and Iraqi Hizbullah officials may result from internal Shiite disputes rather than necessarily having been perpetrated by Baathist Sunni guerrillas.