Muqtada Outside Powers Should Not

Muqtada: “Outside Powers Should Not Interfere in Elections”
Pachachi: Expatriate Iraqis must Vote

Al-Sharq al-Awsat: Shaikh Nasir al-Sa`idi, the Friday prayers leader of al-Muhsin Mosque in Sadr City, read out a sermon written by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that called on “neighbors and non-neighbors of Iraq” to refrain from interfering the in the internal affairs of Iraq, especially in the elections.” He called on Iraqis not to remain silent in the face of the theft of their petroleum, leaving them, he said, with no electricity, with no clean air because of the constant rounds of the tanks and armored vehicles, and no security because of the Occupying Power. He called on George W. Bush by name to avoid interfering in Iraqi affairs. He said, “That is not your specialty. Your specialty is wars and terrorism.” Sa`idi denied that any Sadrists were running for parliament.

I presume that Muqtada thinks there is a danger of Iraq’s Sunni Arab neighbors interfering in the election, or that the US will stage-manage it. His worries are the opposite of those expressed forcefully and voluntarily to the Washington Post last month by King Abdullah II, that Iran might interfere in the elections.

In Najaf, Shaikh Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji (a representative of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) reiterated that the elections had to be held on schedule, and expressed his confidence that Sunni Arabs in Iraq would come out to vote, despite the efforts of “what they call Zarqawi” to ensure otherwise. [It actually seems highly unlikely that many Sunni Arabs will vote, outside perhaps West Baghdad.]

At the Sunni Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad, Shaikh Mahmud al-Sumayd’i demanded a postponement of the elections. He said, “Everyone looks forward to the day when all Iraqis come out to vote, for elections are an Iraqi matter.” He added, “But the elections cannot be held on the basis of the marginalization of one community.”

Adnan Pachachi, the elderly leader of the Independent Democrats, was in Amman to address the Iraqi expatriate community. Some 200 came to hear him urge them to vote. He told them that a massive voter turnout was the only way to put an end to the foreign presence in Iraq. He said Iraq needed the vote, since it was passing through the most dangerous phase in its history, and urged them all to go to the polls. He warned that the guerrilla insurgency in Iraq aimed at establishing a Taliban-like state.

Pachachi had earlier urged postponement of the elections, but he now seems behind them. His campaign trip to Jordan was aimed at getting as many as possible of the some 200,000 Iraqis in that country to come out and vote (preferably for the Independent Democratic Coalition that Pachachi heads). I was in Amman recently and posters are plastered everywhere calling on Iraqi expatriates to vote on January 30.

Most Iraqi expatriates in the US and the West are Shiites, but Jordan may have substantial numbers of Sunni Arabs since it is close to Anbar, Salahuddin and other provinces that are in turmoil, where Sunnis predominate. Jordanians are 90% Sunni and the other 10% is largely Christian.

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