Ayatollah al-Sistani threatens to boycott January elections in Iraq

From the New York Time, September 22, 2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/23/international/middleeast/23sistani.html?hp:

So what does this development portend for Iraq? Is there any hope that the elections will come off as scheduled and that (most of) the Iraqi people will accept their results?

They should never have promised it so soon. Looks like they fell into the trap of believing their own press releases. Now even if circumstances force a postponement and Jimmy Carter swears on a stack of Qurans that it’s a legitimate postponement…it’s still straight out of the ObL playbook.

It depends on Alawi. If he shows sufficient leadership ability and keen foresight and wisdom, and correctly determines which side his bread is buttered, he may be reluctantly burdened with the task of guiding the Iraqi people towards democracy-related program activities.

Does anyone really believe that if all indications were that a free and fair election in Iraq would install a Shia theocracy…that the USA would permit such an election to go forward? Neither are we prepared to accept the consequences if we are seen reneging. Between Iraq and a hard place, we are, as the French say, fuqued.

Expect to be hearing that what Iraq really needs is strong leadership and firm authority. Law and order.

To get to the point were Sistani can be a problem, we have to get through October’s census in Iraq with enough credibility to make elections possible. That’s not looking so good:

Iraq Aims to Conduct Census in Single Day

If somehow the census goes OK, then Sistani’s threat of boycott lands us in merely very deep shit.

no Sistani - no legitimacy
no legitimacy - no peace
no peace - well you know the rest

OK, let’s assume a worst-case scenario (always a safe assumption when discussing Iraq nowadays): The census is carried out but under such difficult conditions that the results appear suspect to some vocal elements in Iraqi society. Alawi decides to proceed with the election anyway, basing the districting process (or whatever they’re planning to use to elect their new parliament) either on those results, or on the results of some older census done during Hussein’s rule. Sistani protests, for reasons outlined in the OP, and encourages all Iraqi Shi’ites to boycott the elections. About half of them do. The elections produce an elected government, but it lacks perceived legitimacy. Alawi hands over the reins to it anyway. While all this is going on, the Coalition troops still haven’t left Iraq, and the insurgents remain in control of several Iraqi cities, and there are still several combat deaths, bombing deaths, and kidnappings being racked up every month.

What happens then?

That’s covered under Rumsfeld’s reduced expectations talk:

We go on. We stay the course, whatever that may be with an illegitimate government in charge of the country.

IOW, Allawi might hand over the govenment to a sort of rump parliament – an incomplete parliament with some districts’ seats left vacant because of the impossibility of conducting elections there?

I don’t think that’s going to work.