Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hauza authorities denounce the latest political agreement

A commenter two posts back raises the excellent question what the Shiite parties think of the emerging US-Sunni alliance, and whether they see the potential threat. Without trying to answer the whole question, let's start with the Sadrists, where the answer is yes, they certainly do! The Sadrist-oriented news-website posed the question of the meaning of the recent so-called five-party agreement, which included a promise to roll back de-Baathification, to a number of persons it describes as in the milieu of the Hauza (Shiite religious establishment) in Najaf, and the story is headed: "People in the clerical Hauza milieu treat the proposal for the return of Baathists to power with alarm, and describe it as a victory for terror." The persons quoted have the title Hujjat al-Islam, giving them a degree of academic-religious authority in those circles (and also a facility with language, as we shall see). The first one describes his reaction as follows:
This decision is a naked disgrace in the mouth of those who claim to represent the sufferings of this people and to defend its rights. The decision represents capitulation to American and British pressure, and to the desires of regional countries led by Saudi Arabia, and it calls for the return of the security officers and the Mukhabarat to tyrannize this people, and this time with the cover of those who claim to represent the will of the Iraqi people!
Another Hujjat al-Islam puts it this way:
This decision represents a dark day in the history of Iraq, justifying killers and their return to their positions to again exercise terror on the people of Iraq. And this during the continuation of a violent campaign against honest people of Iraq, who are killed and arrested on a daily basis by the forces of the Occupation, within sight and hearing of the government whom the people had charged with their security and representation.
In a nutshell: Their view is that the elected government had already capitulated to the Occupation forces in violent persecution of Iraqis (Shiites), and the five-party agreement represents a blatant confirmation of that policy of capitulation, because it explicitly authorizes bringing back the Baathist Mukhabarat. If they were to comment specifically on the question of US arming of Sunni groups (which is something I haven't seen), probably their view wouldn't be any different: The elected government no longer represents the people, so one corollary could naturally be off-the-books US arming of specific groups, which would naturally be seen as having sectarian purposes.

American commenters generally dismiss the five-party agreement as a meaningless gesture to Bush ahead of the Petraeus report. The Hauza, or at least this group--can we call them Sadr-leaning clerics?--doesn't see it that way. It sees the agreement as a milestone in a process of violent US pressure and domestic political betrayal. (For earlier snapshots of the US strategy in this, see for instance "New Rules of Engagement?" (Jan 11 2007) and "Politics of the Sadr City attack" (Aug 9).


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