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Yes, Did al Sistani Accept? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Following the announcement in Iraq of the alliance between the two Shia coalitions, the State of Law Coalition and the National Iraqi Alliance, it was revealed that the two blocs agreed that any dispute between them would be settled by the Shia Marja [religious reference] Sayyed Ali al Sistani and that he would have the final word. However, a source close to the office of Sayyed al Sistani told the Associated Press that “the Shia Marja had not been consulted about that,” and that “the agreement was made between the two blocs and we had no knowledge about it before it was announced.” The Associated Press asked the source a very important and specific question: did al Sistani accept this role or not? Of course the source refused to answer the question!

The importance of the question refers to two significant issues: firstly, the danger of Iraq going down the same path as Iran in terms of the Wilayat al Faqih system in some form or another, and not necessarily in the exact same way as the Iranian model. The second issue here is: what is the value of the constitution, in fact what is the value of the democratic process as a whole in Iraq? The danger of the situation here, above everything else, is that it will drag the Marjaiya into the world of politics, as there is no immunity for those who enter that arena in any way whatsoever because the meat of politicians of any kind is Halal [religiously permissible]. Meanwhile, the Marjaiya in Iraq succeeded at gaining immunity for itself and reaching important status, especially among the rational minded because the Marjaiyah, especially since the fall of the former Saddam Hussein regime, has been keen to show [that it wants to] preserve Iraq and to keep the same distance from everyone there, avoiding anything that could push Iraq towards the hell of sectarianism and conflict.

As a result, the mere silence of the Marjaiya and its failure to openly reject the idea that it would act as an arbiter in any dispute between the two allied Shia coalitions will be equivalent to acceptance or even approval of the coalition that is aiming to alienate the Iraqiya List that emerged as the winner of the recent elections, which would mean alienating half of the Iraqi nation. This is where the danger lies for the Marjaiya, Iraq and the Iraqis. It is assumed that the pillars of the new political contract in Iraq today are the constitution and the state institutions, i.e. the comprehensive political democratic process; political activity in Iraq is not meant to be based on the approval of the Marjaiyas or religious figures, whether they are Sunni or Shia, and not even on the approval of the church but [is meant to be] in accordance with the constitution. What’s important is the people’s vote not the vote of religious figures.

Therefore, the question still stands and it deserves to be raised until the answer is given clearly by the office of Sayyed Ali al Sistani; will the Marjaiya agree to be the arbiter between the State of Law coalition and the National Iraqi Alliance? And would the Marjaiya have approved of the alliance as a result? The mere acceptance of this issue would mean that the rules of the game in Iraq have changed and that the Marjaiya has become a player in this political arena. Approving of this alliance is different to approving of former alliances because the goals of this alliance are clear and what it wants to do is to exclude half of the Iraqi nation, and even go back on the will of the Iraqis [that was demonstrated] when they went to cast their votes in the recent elections.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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