Sunni Cleric Calls For Participation

Sunni Cleric Calls for Participation in Elections
NATO Rules out Iraq Role

Al-Sharq al-Awsat/ AFP: The Sunni religious leader in the Association of Muslim Scholars, Shaikh Mahmud Mahdi al-Sumaidaie has called on Sunni Arabs to vote in the December 15 elections. The preacher at the Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad said, “I call on you to participate broadly in the forthcoming elections so that we can safeguard Iraq, its mosques and its clerics, and so that we can end the rule of one sect without the others; and so that we can make a common stand and say to the Occupier, “Leave our country!”

This call is the first I have seen from a major AMS leader that the Sunnis participate in the Dec. 15 elections. It is a significant shift. (But, I still don’t think the Sunni Arabs can get much more than 45-50 delegates in the 275-member parliament, if that. So some of Shaikh al-Sumaidaie’s expectations are a little unrealistic.

64 percent of Americans now say that the Iraq War was not worth it, the same as in October. A new CBS poll, however, shows that the percentage of Americans who want a precipitate pull-out of troops from Iraq has declined slightly over the last month, from 59 percent to only 50 percent. Likewise, the sentiment for staying “as long as it takes” has risen in the past 30 days from 36 percent to 43 percent. It is hard to explain such a shift, but I suspect that the passage of the constitution has given the US public hope that the political process in Iraq is not hopeless, and they are therefore more willing to accept some sacrifices to get a good outcome.

Michael Schwartz reports on the Marsh Arab guerrilla war against the British in Sadrist-dominated Maysan province. The difference from the center-north is that the Mahdi Army does not attack innocent civilians, only targeting British troops.

Knight Ridder discusses the problem that US forces in Iraq detain a large number of innocent persons for months at a time. The US army and Marines are not policemen, and they are certainly not Iraqi policemen, since most know no local languages. But Mr. Rumsfeld is using them like policemen. The outcome is predictable, if tragic.

Rumsfeld resisted the clause in the Iraqi constitution that forbids the arrest of individuals without an indictment or warrant, and at the least wanted it not to cover US forces. So much for spreading “democracy” in the Middle East. If Rumsfeld wanted to spread arbitrary arrest and torture, well, they already had that. The new Iraqi government after Dec. 15 needs to demand a Status of Forces Agreement with the US and the UK. (Most everyone else in the coalition seems determined to leave soon.)

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says that there are no plans for a NATO involvement in Iraq. NATO is training 1,000 Iraqi officers a year at a military academy in Baghdad, but has no plans to do anything more than that, he said. (NATO does have a significant role in Afghanistan. But note that NATO invoked the provision of its charter that ‘an attack on one is an attack on all’ with regard to Afghanistan, and so felt that was a legitimate war. The NATO charter was not invoked in the case of Iraq, since Iraq had not attacked the United States.

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