if bombings, industrial sabotage, and coalition
casualties weren't enough, Presidential Envoy
to Iraq Paul Bremer has more trouble on his hands.
Shiite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
repeated his call for early elections before the
United States cedes control over Iraq to the U.S.
coalition-appointed Governing Council.
power struggle between the secular, pro-western
exiles from the Sunni and Shiite coalition, the
religious Muslim Shiite, and the Kurds of northern
Iraq is just beginning. Iraqi coalition authority
already aware of each group feeling out the empty
political landscape in the aftermath of Saddam
Hussein's capture, starting with the largest party,
the Iranian-influenced Shia religious headed by
Sistani. Whether or not, there will be increased
violence due to a quick transfer remains to be
seen. What is apparent in Paul Bremer's style
of governance, persuasion and empathy, is that
eventually he will have to deliver what has been
promised (to the Iraqi Governing Council and Congress).
Presidential Envoy Paul Bremer, not only did he
take a professional risk in taking the role of
a lifetime, running a provisional foreign government
in post-wartime, but enormous, future political
risk if his performance isn't deemed acceptable
by the American public and Congress. With the
capture of Saddam and at least, a good working
reputation between the U.S. army, foreign contractors,
and local Iraqi political leaders, Bremer's future
in a possible second Bush administration seems
almost assured, particularly with the expected
departure of Secretary of State Colin Powell at
the end of President Bush's first time next January
(if Bush is re-elected).
beyond the chaos of everyday life in the Sunni
Triangle, which includes Baghdad, and now infamous
Fallujah, Paul Bremer must quickly face the Grand
Ayatollah whose forward political and professional
aspirations may lie. Ali Sistani, the Shiite Muslim
leader who was initially cooperative with the
U.S. coalition, desires early elections giving
his party a great advantage to take power from
rival opposition parties, whose size and organization
do not nearly match his own. Playing to his own
brand of muscle and negotiation, Sistani quickly
rose to the political stage, after Iraqi exile
Ayatollah al-Hakim was assassinated after the
fall of Baghdad. The socially conservative Grand
Ayatollah uses his newfound authority to carry
out orders of his own, regulating trade, crime,
and the role of women at work or in the home.
His religious sect capitalizing on the long, banned
edits of open, declared worship amongst Iraqis.
As illustrated in the secular-religious conflict
over oil in the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam's Baath
Party sighted such activities as "potential threats"
to Party rule.
while the Bush administration may publicly advocate
free elections and representative democracy, the
growing power of the repressed Shiite majority
in the hands of Ali Sistani (whose followers advocate
an Iranian-style theocracy) cannot be tolerated
by President Bush, whose motives for fighting
Saddam Hussein has shifted from "weapons of mass
destruction" to "freedom from a brutal dictatorship,"
and the neoconservative argument of using Iraq
as a "warning" to Iran, North Korea, and Syria
against the continued support and sale of weapons
to terror groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah.
in the short term, possibly Sistani.
the Bush administration facing increasing justification
for funding post-war Iraq operations, nothing
short of an elected, stable democracy can satisfy
administration foreign policy allies, and silence
critics. Unfortunately for Bush and Bremer, Grand
Ayatollah Sistani's demand for elections is worrisome
because the Shiite majority would have representative
control over any new Iraq. Badly repressed by
Saddam after the first Gulf War, while Hussein's
minority Sunni Muslims were in control, many Shiites
were poor and already dependent on the United
Nation's Aid for Food programs during Hussein's
regime. Not surprisingly, the process of coalition
reconstruction has been slow to take hold in areas
outside of Baghdad and Basra, while the death
of the Baath Party has given way to the election
or "self-appointments" of hundreds of civil leaders
in the South under the direction of Shiite Muslim
Bush's controversial foreign policy of pre-emptive
war leaves the process of temporary occupation
a key component which demands American troop strength
to be at near fighting levels to quell any possible
resistance over the foreseeable future. This also
means that Paul Bremer's role as a Presidential
Envoy comes with a handshake and promise not only
get Iraqi coalition allies into leadership positions,
but quietly weed out the agitators and repatriated
exiles which have little support from the Iraqi
public. Unlike Bush's touted demeanor on Mideast
issues, Bremer will have to exercise discretion
and patience for results.
will the American people.
Posted: January 13, 2004