Shiite Preacher Praises Increased Security Calls for Timetable for US Withdrawal

The USG Open Source Center translates Friday prayer sermons from last week in Iraq. Of particular interest is the sermon of Shiite cleric Sadr al-Din al-Qabanji of Najaf, who preaches at the prestigious mosque attached to the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf. Al-Qabanji [al-Qabanchi] represents the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), the de facto most powerful Shiite fundamentalist party in Iraq, since it controls most of the southern provinces and the province of Baghdad, and has a leading position in the cabinet and in parliament. ISCI, with its Badr Corps paramilitary, is the closest ally of the US in Arab Iraq but is also closely linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Al-Qabanji makes 5 major points, 4 of which will be pleasing to the Bush Administration. But the fourth is a call for the US to establish a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. One of the problems with the administration’s announcement that things are going just fine in Iraq, now, is that if it is accepted as true, it raises the question of why US troops are still there. Unlike the Sadr Movement, ISCI represents the Shiite propertied classes, and if they are beginning to think this way, it is bad news for Bush and Cheney. In December of 2006, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who leads al-Qabanji’s party, visited the White House called for US troops to remain in Iraq.

Round-up of Iraqi Friday Sermons 9 Nov
Iraq — OSC Summary
Monday, November 12, 2007 . . .

Al-Furat:

Within its 1700 GMT newscast, Baghdad Al-Furat Television Channel in Arabic – television channel affiliated with the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council (IISC) led by Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim, carries the following report on today’s Friday sermons . . .

Shaykh Sadr-al-Din al-Qabbanji, imam and preacher of the Al-Najaf Friday sermon, says:

“Iraq in the end of 2007 and in the early 2008 is witnessing the following: First, the return of stability to Baghdad and the success of the security plans, and we praise Almighty God for this. Normal life has returned to Baghdad and terrorism has departed, God willing. We can see this fact now after they used to threaten Baghdad from inside it. After the Haifa street battles and after the continuous bombings at universities, ministries, police centers, and markets, praise be to God, the signs of security and stability have become clear as well as the success of the security plan, particularly the Law Enforcement Plan.”

He adds: “Second is the return of the displaced and refugees. Baghdad has begun to receive tens of thousands of those returning to their homes, particularly from outside Iraq.”

Al-Qabbanji says: “Third, is the phenomenon of the victory of unity against disunity. Unity has eventually triumphed. Iraq’s enemies sought to fragment it through sectarian or ethnic seditions. They sometime say a civil war and some other time they say a sectarian war, but once again unity has triumphed over the sectarian and ethnic seditions. Unity has triumphed. The Iraqis have once again achieved unity between Shiites and Sunnis inside the Sunni house and the Shiite house. There is no longer any need to talk about the awakening of Al-Anbar, Diyala, and Salah al-Din. The Sunni tribes began to unite against terrorism and against Al-Qa’ida. Unity in the Shiite house, praise be to God, has improved significantly.”

He says: “Fourth, let us make 2008 the year of unity for the sake of building Iraq. We are at the threshold of 2008. So, let this year be the year of unity for the sake of building Iraq and for reconstructing what was destroyed over the past tens of years of war. This needs cooperation and a serious stand by all sides.”

Al-Qabbanji adds: “America should also assume its responsibility. It should be serious about the issue of restoring real sovereignty and independence to the Iraqi people. It should think of and set a timetable for the withdrawal of its forces and the multinational forces. After stability is achieved in Iraq the presence of the multinational forces will not be justified any more. America announced that the withdrawal of its forces will begin in mid-2008. We say that America and the multinational forces are responsible for setting a timetable for the withdrawal of their forces.” ‘

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