A Hopeful Sign On Iraq Elections….But….
Yes, there is indeed good news (for NOW) out of Iraq where the Shiites who seem poised to win power in the elections insist their government will be a secular one:
With the Shiites on the brink of capturing power here for the first time, their political leaders say they have decided to put a secular face on the new Iraqi government they plan to form, relegating Islam to a supporting role.
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."
This New York Times article is just brimming with hope, including this:
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.
The decision to exclude clerics from the government appears to mean that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric who is the chief of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the scion of a prominent religious family and an oft-mentioned candidate for prime minister, would be relegated to the background. The five Shiites most likely to be picked as prime minister are well-known secular figures.
But then there’s this:
Shiite leaders say their decision to move away from an Islamist government was largely shaped by the presumption that the Iraqi people would reject such a model. But they concede that it also reflects certain political realities – American officials, who wield vast influence here, would be troubled by an overtly Islamist government. So would the Kurds, who Iraqi and American officials worry might be tempted to break with the Iraq.
So all of this is a hopeful development and is justifiably great cause for optimism. But what we now have is a best case scenario — that the Shiites win, put in a secular government and Iraq is stabilized.
However, many potential monkey wrenches can be thrown into this newly fixed engine….such as some groups dropping out of any agreement, opposition to the government by powerful individual clerics, the impact of "insurgent"/terrorist violence in a campaign that will seek to destabilize the government and radicalize the population — — plus the real danger that if the new government is seen to be conceeding too much to U.S. desires it could eventually be hurt by backlash stemming from feelings of nationalism (which could increase once elections install a new government).
Bottom line: even if there’s a secular government in Iraq run by the Shiites, the government is going to be operating in a political and literal minefield.