Tuesday, April 29, 2003

A bit more about the Shi'ite factions in souther Iraq: The Sadriyun boycotted the protests yesterday as well as the conference, and claimed that neither the Najaf clerical establishment nor the SCIRI spoke for the majority of Iraqi Shi'ites. (I didn't post that yesterday because it was a tough paragraph to translate, but I've since seen it in other places.) A couple of weeks ago the Sadriyun failed in their program to evict Ayatollah Sistani from Najaf, and may be waiting before declaring what they will do politically. This would seem to support my main line on Iraq: There are many, many things which could go wrong in Iraq, not the least of which is civil war. At the same time, it's far from certain that they actually will go wrong, simply because no one seems sure what precisely they are going to do. I can't see Shi'ite clerical rule being imposed in Iraq, but to be honest I suspect when push comes to shove SCIRI at least will be more realistic than to try, and the Sistani faction is saying religious scholars should express opinions, but not be in positions of power. Even public opinion is, I feel, not set: No one's gone out and polled the Iraqis about what they think, and buried within the statements you read are lots of "ifs." If someone sticks a microphone in your face and demands to know if you're happy Saddam is gone and what will you do if a foreign power occupies your country and takes your oil, what will you say? I think based on what we know about conditions inside Iraq that we may see a race to provide basic services as a means of gaining legitimacy before opinions become firmly set.

By the way, to understand how pervasive English is in the world, consider SARS. This is an acronym of English words, but rather than use an acronym of the Arabic equivalent, the Arab media simply transliterates "SARS."


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