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January 24, 2005
Iraqis: No Shi'ite Clerics In Government

The New York Times reports today that another argument from the Left against the Bush Administration's efforts to spread democracy throughout Southwest Asia has collapsed. Before and after the Iraqi invasion, the media and the Left screeched warnings that free Iraqi elections would result in an Iranian-style mullahcracy seizing power. However, the largest umbrella Shi'ite political party in Iraq has now rejected theocratic rule:

The senior leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of mostly Shiite groups that is poised to capture the most votes in the election next Sunday, have agreed that the Iraqi whom they nominate to be the country's next prime minister would be a lay person, not an Islamic cleric.

The Shiite leaders say there is a similar but less formal agreement that clerics will also be excluded from running the government ministries.

"There will be no turbans in the government," said Adnan Ali, a senior leader of the Dawa Party, one of the largest Shiite parties. "Everyone agrees on that."

The decision appears to formalize the growing dominance of secular leaders among the Shiite political leadership, and it also reflects an inclination by the country's powerful religious hierarchy to stay out of the day-to-day governing of the country. Among the Shiite coalition's 228 candidates for the national assembly, fewer than a half dozen are clerics, according to the group's leaders.

Why? Not out of any sense of altruism, certainly, but for a number of practical reasons. First, the Iraqi version of Shi'a comes from Najaf (Sistani is one of its adherents), and that sect counsels against clerical involvement in government. Sistani himself has declined to even endorse candidates, although he has been active in ensuring that elections take place. Second, most people, including the Shi'ites, recognize that clerics tend toward impracticality and that makes for difficult governing. As the article states, even the Iranians advised against it:

The conviction that the Iranian model should be avoided in Iraq is apparently shared by the Iranians themselves. One Iraqi Shiite leader, who recently traveled to Tehran, the Iranian capital, said he was warned by the Iranians themselves against putting clerics in the government.

"They said it caused too many problems," the Iraqi said.

Another force at work is the ongoing murder spree of Islamofascists who want that Iranian-style or Wahhabist dictatorship imposed on the Iraqis. If people had any significant affection for a strict Islamist government in Iraq prior to the insurgency, they now see what would come from it and have recoiled at the thought. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his henchment have given Iraqis a sneak peek at their vision of Iraq, prostrate before a bloodthirsty Caliph in Baghdad -- in other words, Saddam without the socialist rhetoric. The Iraqis may fear the bombs, but they're not stupid enough to choose the bombers.

Mostly, though, the politicians understand that the Iraqis would reject such a theocracy imposed on them, regardless of it benignity. That's why free elections are so important, and the need to explain this to the American Left should shame all of them. The Iraqi politicians now understand that they have to follow policies that the people will support. The candidates for next week's elections comprehend their accountability to the people of Iraq. They will be held responsible for their positions on issues for the first time ... well, ever.

No longer will power be imposed on the Iraqis; now its springs from the people. With over 80% planning on voting in the election, the politicians have to consider the best compromises to make as many people satisfied with the government the new parliament will create in its first session. Otherwise, they will answer for any failures by losing their jobs. That's the promise of free elections -- and why the Bush strategy of employing democracy as a shield will provide the only real solution to the impotency and rage that creates and fuels the terrorist impulses in that region of the world.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 24, 2005 5:55 AM

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