Irak, Medio Oriente y Asia
Dios y el hombre en Bagdad
Thomas L. Friedman
Claudia Cinatti, especial para PI
New York Times
God and Man in Baghdad
Are you sitting down?
We've encountered many surprises since we invaded Iraq, but
now that the political process is under way the biggest
surprise may be just around the corner, and it's this: The
first post-Saddam democratic government that the U.S. gives
birth to in Iraq may be called the Islamic Republic of Iraq
- and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I told you to sit
The challenge of reforming any of the 22 nondemocratic Arab
states comes down to a very simple question: How do you get
from here to there - how do you go from an authoritarian
monarchy or a military regime to a more representative
government - without ending up with a Khomeini-like
theocracy à la Iran or a civil war à la Algeria?
Virtually all of these Arab states suffer from the same
problem: because of decades of political repression,
one-man rule and economic stagnation, there is no viable
middle class and no legitimate, independent political
parties and institutions to fill the void once the
authoritarian leadership is removed. Iraq exhibits this
problem in spades.
As a result, in the Sunni and Shiite areas of Iraq, the
primary sources of legitimacy, and political expression,
are tribal and religious. This dependence upon, and respect
for, religious authority will be reflected in the first
post-Saddam government - whether it comes about by indirect
or direct elections. Because Shiites make up 60 percent of
Iraq, and because the only current legitimate Shiite
leaders are religious figures, their views and aspirations
will have to be taken into account.
There is, however, good reason to believe that Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in
Iraq and the only one who can claim to speak for Iraqi
Shiites as a whole, does not aspire to be a Khomeini. Many
Iraqi Shiite clerics have lived in Iran and avowedly do not
want to follow its authoritarian path. Moreover, because
Shiites are a majority in Iraq, they are the ones with the
greatest stake in keeping Iraq a unified state. Given their
numbers, any democratic Iraq is one where Shiites, be they
liberals or conservatives, will have great influence. But
to keep Iraq unified the Shiites will have to respect the
rights and aspirations of Iraq's Kurds and Sunnis, as well
as other minorities.
What is unfolding in Iraq today - a tug of war between
Ayatollah Sistani and the Governing Council over how an
interim government should be elected - is something
inevitable, essential and inescapably messy.
"What we are witnessing," explains Yitzhak Nakash, the
Brandeis University professor who is the author of "The
Shi'is of Iraq," "is a very healthy bargaining session over
what will be the relationship between religion and politics
in Iraq and over the process of choosing legitimate
national and communal leaders. It is very important that
the Americans show respect for the views of Sistani - whose
tacit support for the U.S. presence in Iraq has been
enormously important - and let Sistani and the other Iraqi
political forces thrash this out on their own."
Ayatollah Sistani is "not a Khomeini," adds Mr. Nakash, and
he does not envisage an Iraq ruled directly by clerics. The
ayatollah comes from the quietist school of Shiite clerics,
who have traditionally attempted to shield themselves from
politics. In demanding elections, he's obviously looking
out for Shiite interests, but he's also insisting that the
new Iraqi government be as legitimate and stable as
"If there is going to be a stable government in Iraq, it
has to come about after some genuine public debate and
after some consensus is reached regarding the relationship
between religion and state, and between the clerics and the
politicians," Mr. Nakash said. "Otherwise, no Iraqi
government will last once the Americans leave. It will not
have a legitimate base."
If things go reasonably well, the result will be an initial
Iraqi government that is more religious than Turkey but
more democratic than Iran. Not bad.
We must not try to abort this unfolding discussion among
Iraqis. In fact, we should be proud of it. We are fostering
a much-needed free political dialogue in the heart of the
Arab world. Our job is to make sure there is enough
security for this critical discussion, so I would bring
every U.S. soldier from Europe and Japan to Iraq to make
There is no more important political project for the U.S.
in the world today than seeing whether Iraq can get from
Saddam to Jefferson without going through Khomeini.