Political Climate of Iraq
US involvement in appointing unpopular Iraqis to government made the idea of representative government less popular and more difficult to enforce. When in 2006, the al-Askari Mosque of Samara was bombed by Al-Qaeda and sectarian violence skyrocketed, the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistini suggested that militias should be given a bigger role in security efforts if the Iraqi government could not protect religious sites.
After Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled , the US administration in Iraq led by General Paul Bremer formed an advisory Iraqi “political council”, but several Iraqi groups disapproved working with it because all of the leaders where US-appointed. On Jul 13, 2003, the re-named Iraqi Governing Council held their first meeting. Many officials who had served Saddam were reappointed by the US and unpopular, therefore dependent on occupying forces for protection.
On March 8, 2004 the new Iraqi constitution, or the “Transitional Administrative Law”, was approved by the Iraqi Governing Council, although it was written by American lawyers and only seen by a few Iraqis before announced to the public.The Iraqi Interim Government replaced the Iraqi Governing Council on June 1, 2004 with the assistance of a UN envoy. The Iraqi Interim government had limited powers with an armed forces US operational control, US officials overseeing finances, and no authority to amend edicts from Us forces or enact new laws. Minister Haider al-Abadi of the Iraqi Interim Government stated, “If it’s a sovereign Iraqi government that can’t change laws or make decisions, we haven’t gained anything”. The Iraqi Transitional Government would be the last temporary government in power before Iraq’s first permanet government is elected in 2005.The 2004 constitution preceded a January 31, 2005 election that chose a 275-member assembly. The United Iraq Alliance, a coalition of Shiites, received nearly half the votes. In April 2005, the Kurdish Jalal Talabani became president and Shiite Ibrahim al-Jaafari became Prime minister. In the election Sunnis received just 2% of the votes.
The 2005 elections in Iraq would mark the first time the US administration would give the Iraqis the opportunity to choose their own leader, and the Shiite majority representing the population of Iraq came through with purple-inked fingers and a Shiite plurality government, to the anger of some Sunni groups who had been accustomed to the Sunni-majority government under Saddam.
Representing the majority-Shia government of Iraq would be Grand Ayatollah Ali as-Sistani, who was outraged at the idea of the American administration selecting the format of the government of Iraq, so much so that he would not meet with Paul Bremer and asserted that the new constitution would not be supported by the Iraqi people. Opposition continued throughout Iraq with the head of the Iraqi Governing Council was killed in a car bomb on May 17 and the American-appointed governor of Mosul was killed on July 14th. To many Iraqis, including Iraqi author Haifa Zangana, it was not Islam that was the enemy, but rather the collapse of society and the state under occupation.
The new constitution that was drafted in August 2005 was drafted under pressure from the US for Iraq to meet the deadline of August 15, 2005. Although the constiution was voted upon when the country was aproaching civil war, a set back in the deadline would be considered a failure on the part of the US.
To make matters more difficult, the lack of understanding of the Arabic language caused frequent misunderstandings and the death of many Iraqis and Americans. According to Abdullah, a Iraqi man I interviewed who is currently living in Baghdad,
“I would like to say there were a lot of mistakes from two sides. Iraq was not a familiar environment for the US army, there was a lot of tradition in Iraq, a lot of tribes in Iraq…dealing with these groups needs a specific type of knowledge missing with the US military”
- In Thawra, known as Medina al Sadr to some, stands a young Shia cleric.
- From Baghdad: Truth Lies Within
For a timeline on the development of Iraq, see the BBC’s ‘Iraq Profile’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14546763