'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sistani to Call for US Withdrawal ... Maybe 

Rumor has it that Sistani is going to call for the US to withdraw from Iraq. Here's Juan Cole:

The intrepid Hamza Hendawi of AP gets the scoop: Aides around Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the chief spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites, are broadly hinting that after the December 15 elections, he may begin a Gandhi-like campaign to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. A lot of sentiments are attributed to Sistani that he later has to deny, so we should be cautious about whether the aides have their own axe to grind. But if this report is true, it would suggest that Sistani is confident that the Iraqi police and military are strong enough to protect him and the other members of the current Iraqi political class, and that the Americans are not needed.

If Sistani gives The Fatwa for a US withdrawal, the Bush administration will simply have to acquiesce. The situation would be similar to what happened in the Philippines in 1991, when the Philippines senate declined to authorize the extension of the treaty that permitted US naval bases in that country. Given the ongoing Sunni Arab guerrilla movement (which killed another 5 US GI's in the past couple of days), the US simply cannot keep troops in Iraq if the Shiites also begin vehemently demanding their departure. Any attempt by Bush and Rumsfeld to remain in Iraq in defiance of Sistani would certainly radicalize the Iraqi population and risk pushing it toward anti-American Muslim extremism both on the Shiite and the Sunni Arab fronts. As Hendawi notes, most close observers of Iraq, such as Vali Nasr and Ahmad Hashem (who has experience on the ground as US military officer) believe that any such move by Sistani, should it succeed, risks throwing Iraq into substantial sectarian violence.

Here's the AP story that Cole is talking about...

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