Sunday, September 14, 2008


* Maliki spokesman Ali Dabbagh criticized representatives of the Ayatollah Sistani for making recommendations respecting elections for provincial councils (a Sistani representative had said merely that they should be held, and promptly, urging an end to the political roadblocks to legislation on this). Dabbagh said the marjaiyyah is to be respected in its guidance on religious matters, but should stay out of politics. This is unusual, and as RoadstoIraq notes, being perhaps an initial sign of a split between the Najaf authorities and Maliki. It should be remembered that Sistani's people have been increasingly blunt in their criticism of the Maliki administration in recent weeks for its incompetence and toleration of widesread corruption.

* AlSharqiyya TV (sister organization to the newspaper Azzaman), which ran a program recently on torture of Iraqis in Iraqi prisons, has been subect in the last few days to a campaign of vilification by the government-run AlIraqiyya TV, and yesterday four of its employees were kidnapped and murdered in Mosul while filming the next episode in a Ramadan series. According to AlHayat, the director of AlSharqiyya linked the killings to the program on torture, and to the campaign of vilification, and said the government-run station bears moral responsibility for the killings. (Remarks by an unnamed McClatchy correspondent on their blog indicate that the campaign against AlSharqiyya is part of the government's "Baathist menace" theme).

* Maliki in person, for his part, has apparently come up with an additional line of defence for his government's performance, blaming none other than Paul Bremer for having created problems in Iraq which his government is still trying to rectify. He said Bremer commited mistakes that are no less serious than those of the terrorists, but the Aswat alIraq summary doesn't refer to any specifics. Maliki showed particular sensitivity to the issue of poor provision of government services to the people. He said: "We have made great efforts to provide basic services like electricity, petroleum derivatives and the ration-card items, and we appreciate the sufferings of the people in the area of these services, which have been in the forefront of the operations of the terrorist and destructive operations over the course of the recent years." Maliki made the remarks in Karbala, where he had gone to speak with Shiite religious authorities by way of defending his government's performance. There is obviously some immediate background to the remarks on Bremer, but it isn't clear what that is).

In any event, it appears that the Maliki administration, under increasing pressure in the face of the cholera epidemic, disclosures about inability to provide political leadership, torture, corruption, and so on, is pushing back against its critics in the only ways it can think of--against its erstwhile allies among the Najaf authorities under the rubric of separation of religion and state, against other domestic critics on the theme of fighting the Baathist menace, and with the errors of Bremer thrown in for good measure.

It isn't clear where this is going to end up, but I think it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the Maliki administration is gradually cutting itself off from, and pushing back against, its traditional supporters, from the authorities in Najaf to the heirs of Bremer in the American Embassy, not to mention the Kurdish warlord parties.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One small caveat is that Dabbagh is acting in capacity as chairman for his own small party here, rather than as a voice for the Daawa or Maliki. This is nevertheless an interesting story that may perhaps shed light on the issue of the ISCI-Maliki relationship, if only indirectly so. One of the big issues in the provincial elections law has been about the permission to use places of worship and religious symbolism for campaigning purposes. The only party that has repeatedly demanded the right to make use of such religious propaganda is ISCI. The failure of the government to support ISCI on this means almost certainly that other Shiite Islamists have worked against the use of religious propaganda in the elections, and Maliki may well have been among them.

Historically, since the 1980s the Daawa party has been a party of laymen Islamists who wanted to keep the clergy at an arm’s length, and this was the principal reason that the party became more aloof from Iran than SCIRI/ISCI. On the other hand, SCIRI/ISCI has always been prepared to submit to the idea of supreme clerical authority, first under Khomeini and later Khamenei. Contrary to what some Western media reports say, there is nothing to suggest that this changed in May 2007, because there has been no definitive ISCI renunciation of Khamenei as wali amr al-muslimin.

5:18 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Thanks. I assumed Dabbagh's relationship to this "association of independent professionals" or whatever it is was pretty much pro forma, and that what he says still reflects Maliki. But... Probably I should have added another couple of question-marks to the title

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"[There has been no definitive ISCI renunciation of Khamenei as wali amr al-muslimin."

(( Oh, well, ‘definitive’! ))

Shiite Politics in Iraq: The Role of the Supreme Council
Crisis Group Middle East Report N°70, 15 November 2007

[p. 15] Does this suggest that the new ISCI remains as beholden to both this principle and the Iranian supreme leader as SCIRI was in exile, despite its utterances in favour of Sistani?

ISCI officials suggest that the change was decisive [?!] and, moreover, that it occurred not in 2007 but as early as May 2003, upon Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim’s [_sic_] return to Iraq:

"As soon as he returned, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim announced that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is the _marja al-taqlid_. He has always held that Najaf is the primary seat for the Shiites’ religious authority, the _marjaeeya_. The number of Sistani’s followers reveals his stature and importance in the Shiite world. Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim made his announcement to show that SISTANI IS THE ONE AND ONLY _MARJA_ TO FOLLOW AND TO INDICATE THAT WE OBEY HIS INSTRUCTIONS. He also made it to show that we do not follow Iran. Some people said that we did not announce our allegiance to Sistani until 2007. But we had already issued statements in Iran, after the regime’s fall but before our return to Iraq, that we followed Sistani as the _marja al-taqlid_." <110>

Along with its Iran-based _marja_, they say, ISCI cast off the theory of the rule of the jurisprudent:

"_Wilayat al-faqih_ was something that had to do with Iran and the Iranian constitution. Even when we were in Iran, we were neither with it nor against it. But after our return to Iraq, we had to work according to the reality on the ground. We used to accept Ayatollah Khomeini’s resolutions because we were in Iran, and he was the leader, but SCIRI came to Iraq and now we are in Iraq."<111>

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the final statement of the ISCI meeting in May 2007 itself is far more important than what individual ISCI members may say in interviews. In it, ISCI merely say that they "praise" the role of Sistani along with the rest of the Iraqi clergy. There is nothing about "allegiances" in the 49-point statement whatsoever (for details see Compare this to Baqir al-Hakim's treatise on pan-Shiism (Aqidatuna), or the fierce criticism by the ISCI leadership when the Sadrists dared to challenge Khamenei in 1999! During a meeting with Abd al-Aziz al-Halkim a couple of years ago, Muqtada brought up the subject of wilayat al-faqih but Hakim did not produce a clarifying answer.

By the way, there is a big difference between renouncing wilayat al-faqih and breaking with wali amr al-muslimin. Hakim often said that wilayat al-faqih was not suitable for Iraq as a system, but the real test is the wali amr al-muslimin concept, which has to do with individual submission to a supreme leader. ISCI as a party has yet to denounce that.

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