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Monday, November 17, 2003

# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SHI'ITE VOTE: Take a look at this somewhat better than usual article on Shi'ite attitudes toward democracy. It has some interesting information about Ayatollah Sistani and the way he expresses his official opinions.

What I don't about like the article is the way it argues by implication that Iraqi Shi'ites just want power and don't understand and/or care about democracy as a system of government. For example, WaPo correspondent Anthony Shadid describes some pro-Iranian graffiti outside the office of Sistani's spokesman before letting us hear the spokesman's endorsement of constitutional government.

Is this supposed to be a tip off that Iraqi Shi'ites want an Islamic state? If so, why not just ask Sistani's spokesman about Iran? Why not ask him whether he sees democracy as a permanent system or just a transitional process? And ask those same questions to all the other man-in-the-street types whose opinions fill out the second half of all these articles.

We've known since day one that the Shi'ites have a lot of incentives to support democracy just long enough for them to take control of postwar Iraq. Now it is time for the media to stop repeating that fact endlessly and figure out whether the Shi'ite leadership means what it says about democracy or whether it just talks about democracy to advance its own interests.

By the same token, the American occupation authorities should be hammering away at a similar point when talking to the Shi'ite leadership: The more of a commitment that you show to democracy as an institution, the faster we can transfer power to an elected government in which your representatives will have a majority.
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