Sistani Ups The Stakes Against U.S.
If Sistani formally rejected the U.S. plan, Iraqis would never support it, his aide said (AFP)
KARBALA, Iraq, January 16 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – In what could be a major challenge to the U.S. Authority in Iraq, the most influential
Shiite scholar, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, threatened Friday, January16 , protests and a strike if the U.S.-led occupation authority did not back
down from its plan to form an Iraqi government without direct elections.
"In the coming days, we are going to see protests and strikes and perhaps a confrontation with the occupying force if it insists on its colonial
plans and designing the country's politics for its own interests," said Sheikh Abdel Mahdi al-Karbalai, Sistani's representative in the Shiite holy
city of Karbala, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"We tell you to support the Marja's call for general elections. The Marja will do all in its power to stop those who would throw away the rights of
the Iraqi people and will not give up its cause," he told a crowd of hundreds.
Karbalai used the term Marja to refer to the elite group of scholars, headed by Sistani, to whom Iraq's strong Shiites – so far not adopting
confrontational stance against the occupation - look to for spiritual guidance.
Karbalai, like other top aides to Sistani, often delivers the scholar’s teaching in sermons Friday, the Islamic world's traditional day of rest.
His words had added significance as they were delivered at the Shrine of Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites, 110 kilometers (68 miles)
south of Baghdad, the burial site of the Muslim prophet Mohammed's grandson, Hussein.
Sistani has demanded general elections before Washington returns sovereignty in less than six months time.
In the south, in Basra, thousands of Shiites showed their solidarity with 73 -year-old Sistani Thursday, demonstrating against the U.S. plans for
erecting a national government without conducting polls.
Bremer has said there is not enough time to hold elections before a handover of sovereignty due to lack of electoral registers and polling laws.
On Thursday, an aide to Sistani told Reuters in Kuwait that if the scholar formally rejected the U.S. plan, Iraqis would never support it.
"If (Sistani) issues a fatwa (edict) all the Iraqi people will go out in protest marches and demonstrations against the coalition forces," Ayatollah
Mohammad Baqer al-Mohri said.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of the southern city of Basra, in support of Sistani's demand on Thursday.
And another top Shiite leader wrote to the U.S. President and British Prime Minister Tony Blair questioning their sincerity over the transfer of power
to the Iraqis.
Hojat Al-Islam Ali Abdulhakim Alsafi said the transition plan had more to do with U.S. elections than Iraqi interests.
Sunni imams joined forces with Shiites in the speeches of Friday prayers in Baghdad and other Iraqi areas.
With the announcement in November of the occupation’s decision to establish an independent Iraq by July 1 without holding elections, Sistani has dug
in his heels.
Last Sunday, he appeared to slam the door shut on compromise, telling a delegation from the handpicked U.S.-led Governing Council that there was no
good reason not to hold polls to choose the nation's next leaders.
He insisted elections could be held in the coming months.
Since then, Bremer's team and the Council have looked at ways to expand their proposed regional caucus system - under a November 15 agreement - for
selecting the transitional government.
But the two sides' relations have never been more tense.
The supposed government that is being suggested will not be democratic.
Why would we set up this form of occupational puppet?
It would not represent the people, and therefore would have no legitimacy.
There is no reason to form another puppet. The Iraqi council is already a puppet government.