Sistani Urges Support For Constitution

Sistani urges Support for Constitution
And for Iran

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called Thursday for Iraqis to vote “yes” on the new Iraqi constitution in the referendum on October 15, according to Reuters. (The announcement does not yet appear at sistani.org). For him, the key paragraph is 2A, which insists that no law can be passed by the civil legislature that contravenes “the established laws of Islam.” The constitution also foresees at least some clerics being appointed as civil judges and justices of the supreme court. He was less enthusiastic about the document’s vision of a loose federalism that would allow provinces to form confederacies on ethnic grounds and keep some oil income at home rather than sending it to the central government. But he seems to have been won over by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which sees benefits for the Shiites of the south in a loose federalism.

Sistani has vast moral authority among Iraqi Shiites, and his support for the constitution may well assure its passage. It can be defeated if 3 provinces vote against it by a 2/3s majority in each. The two provinces with substantial Shiite populations that might show significant opposition to the constitution are Baghdad and Maysan. Sistani’s support will make it harder, however, for nationalist Shiites to swing the population against it.

Sistani had earlier urged Iraqis to register to vote in the referendum on the constitution.

An envoy of Sistani recently met with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of Iran’s clerical Expediency Council and a candidate in last June’s presidential election. Rafsanjani praised the new Iraqi constitution.

Assuming that IRNA got it right, the following quote is breathtaking: ‘ Concerning the western countries trouble making for Iran in its peaceful nuclear energy program, Ayatollah Sistani’s envoy said, ” the arrogant powers do not want a powerful and free Iran to emerge as a pattern for the whole Islamic world.” ‘

The Americans have for some time claimed Sistani as a “moderate” and even though he would not meet with them, have assumed that his vision of the future of Iraq is broadly complementary to their own. If Sistani is openly supporting Iran’s nuclear program and denouncing the US as ‘arrogant”, this is a new development that will be most unwelcome to Washington.

Anthony Shadid says that when he was in Najaf in August there were rumors that Sistani was not happy with the United Iraqi Alliance. KarbalaNews.net reports that Sistani is declining to support any party list in the December 15 elections to come. My own guess is that Sistani feels that the UIA government has failed to establish security, and he blames it in part for incidents like the thousand dead at the bridge in Kazimiyah. He wanted them to give more cabinet positions to Sunnis than they did, and he may feel they are too partisan and not dedicated enough to national interests. These two observations are based on evidence; he did call on the government to accept responsibility for the stampede and do a better job at crowd control; and he did call for more cabinet posts for Sunnis than were awarded.

Support for the constitution was earlier voiced by Sistani’s slightly junior colleague, Grand Ayatollah Ishaq Fayyad, who is an Afghan and known to be pro-American.

Sunni Arab leaders are vowing to defeat the constitution. They would need to organize a 2/3s vote against it in Anbar, Salah al-Din and Ninevah provinces, assuming that they get no help from Shiite militants like Muqtada al-Sadr.

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