Sectarianism Dominates Iraq in Run-up to Elections
The December 15 elections are shaping up as a sectarian affair. The United Iraqi Alliance groups four of the five main Shiite religious parties: Dawa, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Muqtada al-Sadr branch of the Sadrists, and the Islamic Action Organization, along with many smaller parties, including those of the Shiite Turkmen. Most of the Shiite provinces seem likely to vote for it, and it could well dominate parliament again. The Kurds will vote for the Kurdistan Alliance, the Sunnis for their list.
KarbalaNews.net [Arabic] notes that the Fadilah or Virtue Party, another branch of the Sadrists led by Shaikh Muhammad Yaqubi, in the end declined to join the UIA coalition. The Virtue Party is in rivalry with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq in Basra, and competes for support with Muqtada’s branch of Sadrism. My guess is that Virtue just wasn’t given enough seats in the UIA list, either at the federal or the provincial level, to make them happy. They will contest the election on their own. [PS: I am told that the Electoral High Commission ruled Fadilah’s attempt to secede out of order, since it came after the deadline.]
My guess is that the Sadr Movement made it difficult for Ahmad Chalabi to remain in the United Iraqi Alliance. Muqtada demanded that the UIA affirm that it would not recognize Israel, whereas Chalabi has a deal to recognized them if he comes to power. Likewise, with the Sadrists coming into the UIA, there weren’t many free seats to bestow on the Iraqi National Congress, which no one thinks would do well on its own. Apparently the INC will run as an independent list, and it seems to be possible that Chalabi will not even get into parliament at all this time. Even if he does get in, he certainly will have little power.
The Bush administration is so unrepentant about the fraud perpetrated on the American people about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (most of these allegations originating with Chalabi and his cronies) that Chalabi is meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Condi Rice and with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley! Why not so long ago Bush was mad at him for passing to the Iranians the secret that the US had broken their encryption codes. Have they no shame? At long last?
As for the Sadrists: In his holy day sermon, Hazim al-Araji (a follower of Muqtada al-Sadr) called for national unity as a means of defeating terrorist groups. He preached while holding a machine gun in one hand. He said of the terrorists:
“They kill the people in the name of Islam . . . they use ringing names such as Ansar al-Sunnah (Helpers of the Prophet’s Path), Qaedat al-Jihad (the Base for Holy War– i.e. Bin Laden and Zawahiri), and The Army of Muhammad . . . The Prophet Muhammad [would say] “Ansar al-Sunnah, you are enemies of the Path of the Prophet; Army of Muhammad, I wash my hands of your deeds, you infidels! And you, Qaedat al-Jihad, you are the infidel base; yes, I wash my hands of these names.” (-al-Sharq al-Awsat)
Gee, the Sadrists seem to have an interesting critique of Bin Laden.
Iraqis are divided on when to celebrate the Break-Fast Festival (Id al-Fitr) at the end of Ramadan. Sunnis and some Shiites celebrated it Thursday, whereas Sistani loyalists among the Shiites are celebrating it Friday. The custom is that when it falls depends on a reliable eyewitness sighting of the new moon. Given that some areas might be overcast, or just by accident, it is possible for one group to conclude that it has been seen while another waits a day. Under Saddam, the government issued a standardized ruling. But it is common in the Muslim world (and has been, all along, for different groups to celebrate the holy day on different days on occasion.
Eleven bodies were found in southeastern Baghdad on Thursday, some of them beheaded. Typically these incidents are the result of the unconventional sectarian civil war.