An extraordinary Iraqi parliamentary session planned for Sunday to settle the provincial election law was cancelled at the last minute. Parliament is on recess in August.
So to recap: No provincial election law means, probably, no provincial elections this year. No oil law. No significant Shiite-Sunni reconciliation. Politics gridlocked in Iraq.
Westerners look for public opinion leaders to politicians. But the influence of preachers in Iraq is significant. They are clearly very interested in the provincial elections, and hoping to position the parties to which they are affiliated to do well in them. The disposition of the northern oil city of Kirkuk is emerging as a key nationalist issue for Iraqi Arabs, putting the Shiite fundamentalist Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which is allied with the Kurds, in a difficult position (see Saghir’s remarks below). This is an issue on which the Sadrists could do well if there were elections.
The USG Open Source Center translates Friday prayers sermons from Iraq last Friday, which often refer to the contentious upcoming provincial elections and the dispute over Kirkuk. It seems clear that the Sunnis and the Sadrists are urging their adherents to register to vote in hopes of changing the government through the polls.:
Roundup of Iraqi Friday Sermons 1 Aug
Iraq — OSC Summary
Saturday, August 2, 2008 . . .
Baghdad Al-Iraqiyah Television in Arabic – government-sponsored television station, run by the Iraqi Media Network … within its 1500 GMTnewscast, Al-Iraqiyah carries the following report on today’s Friday sermons:
. . . “Friday preachers and imams in Baghdad and the governorates called on the politicians to reach an agreement on the Provincial Council Election Law. In the same context, the Friday preachers welcomed the security operation in the Diyala Governorate against the terrorist groups.”
The report adds: “The Kirkuk issue is once again discussed by Friday preachers, taking into consideration that it is the topical issue of the political street. Commenting on this issue, Shaykh Jalal-al-Din al-Saghir, imam and preacher of the Buratha Mosque, termed this issue as difficult. He called on the political parties to deal with it accurately in order to come up with a Provincial Council Election Law that satisfies all parties.”
Shaykh Al-Saghir says:”We should very accurately examine an extremely difficult file. Do not imagine that this is an easy file, which is related to a city where there a reregional and international obligations and a very thorny and very complicated ethnic file. Such issues cannot be solved based on the voting way. These issues cannot be solved without understandings.”
The report says: “In addition to the importance of the Kirkuk issue, there is also the issue of Operation Heralds of Prosperity, the military operation that is under way toenforce law in the Diyala Governorate. The Friday preachers have discussed thisissue as being the last stage of eliminating terrorism in the country.”
Shaykh Yasin al-Musawi, imam of the Al-Husayniyah Friday sermon in holy Al-Najaf, says: “We will achieve victory. It will be announced soon, God willing, through Operation Heralds of Prosperity in Diyala, and security and safety will be achieved.Al-Qa’ida and their likes of the gangs which seek evil to Iraq and the Iraqis,will not find safe havens in it.” . . .
Baghdad Satellite Television in Arabic – television channel believed to be sponsored by the [Sunni Fundamenalist] Iraqi Islamic Party – at 0940 GMT is observed to carry live the following Fridaysermon from an unidentified mosque in Baghdad. Shaykh Dr Harith al-Ubaydi delivers the sermon:
. . .In his second sermon, the preacher urges worshippers to “check with the election centers to see whether their names are registered or not,” adding “I stress that the provincial council elections is one of the very important elections, takinginto consideration that these elections support right and deter falsehood and injustice.”
Within its 1700 GMT newscast, Baghdad Al-Furat Television Channel in Arabic – television channel affiliated with the [Shiite] Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council (IISC) led by Abd-al-Azizal-Hakim, carries the following report on today’s Friday sermons:
“Friday preachers called for solving the country’s current crises based on accord among all components. They stressed the need to confront and uproot administrative corruption. The preachers said that the recent visit to the holy city of Al-Kazimiyah by millions of people has proved that the Iraqi people adhere to their strong loyalty to Islam.”
Shaykh Muhammad al-Haydari,imam and preacher of the Al-Khillani Mosque, says: “He is deluded the one who says that the Iraqi people have departed from Islam and do not want Islam and that this will be replaced by secularism and the like. This is a living evidence and example, taking into consideration that millions of people have visited Al-Kazimiyah under these difficult circumstances.”
The report adds that regarding the issue of the Provincial Council Election Law, Shaykh Jalal-al-Din al-Saghir” denied accusations [against] the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council (IISC) that it supports giving Kirkuk to the Kurds, stressing that political accord is the alternative solution to the voting principle in order to avoid the ethnic conflicts that might erupt.”
Shaykh Al-Saghir says:”When we made a decision on not voting in order not to involve the country in a crisis we were accused that we want to sell out Kirkuk. Here, I want toask who sold out and who bought, and who supported and protected the city of Kirkuk?”
The report says that the preachers have also praised the “role of the security forces and the continuous achievements and successes they make, beginning with Basra, Mosul,and Maysan, and ending with Diyala.” The report adds: “However, the arrows of accusations were aimed at the government, which, according to Sayyid Al-Hasani, stands idly watching the financial and administrative corruption that has ruined most of the ministries.”
The report adds: “For his part, Sayyid Yasin al-Musawi, imam and preacher of the Friday sermon in holy Al-Najaf, stressed the importance of the security operation in the Diyala Governorate, saying that it is aimed at achieving security and enforcing the sovereignty of law.”
Al-Musawi says: “This wronged area (Diyala) complains to God in these difficult years of what its citizens had suffered from in terms of injustice, terrorism, killing,expulsion, and displacement. The takfiris (holding other Muslims to be infidels) and the Saddamists are trying to pursue their course of killing innocent people and spreading chaos. This operation (Operation Heralds of Prosperity), just like the previous operations, aims to extinguish the fires of seditions and to eliminate terrorists, saboteurs, Saddamists, anarchists, andall those who do not seek prosperity to Iraq. Experience has proved that thepeople are one united people and that it has become clear to all the people’s groups and sects that salvation can only be achieved by the creation of a legalstate to protect them.” . . .
The report says: “In the Al-Diwaniyah Governorate, Sayyid Hasan al-Zamili, imam and preacher of Friday sermon, said that the government should find curative solutions to the problem of unemployment in the country.” . . .
Al-Amarah MilitantAl-Amarah News Network:
Al-Amarah Militant Al-Amarah News Network in Arabic -website associated with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is observed to carry a Friday sermon by Shaykh Salah al-Ubaydi from Al-Kufah Mosque.
Shaykh Al-Ubaydi delivers two sermons, the first and the second sermons, which are purely religious. However, before the first sermon, he urges Iraqi voters to “register their names and those of members of their families whether the elections take place or not.” He says that during the election campaign, some sides spread rumors, and “I advise the brother believers not to believe these rumors.”
Al-Ubaydi says: “We reiterate our rejection of the security agreement [with the US], as mujahid Sayyid Muqtadaal-Sadr, may God maintain his glory, stated in his recent statement.”