Sayed Mahdi Almodarresi's interview with the BBC about the current crisis in Iraq

Click image to see comments by Almodarresi on the BBC's "QUOTE OF THE DAY" 


Iraq crisis may spark a civil war

By: Ali Mohammad
Thu Apr 15, 2004 16:05 PM ET

The World Service of the BBC conducted four separate interviews with Sayed Mahdi Almodarresi about the current political crisis in Iraq between the Coalition Forces and the supporters of Sayed Moqtada Al Sadr. Two of the interviews were broadcast live while the others were recorded and played at a later time in “News Hour” as well other local and worldwide programs.

 Below is a summary of the first interview which was broadcast live via a satellite telephone link:

What is your analysis of the current situation in Iraq?

  • We have to take a realistic look at the sociopolitical landscape of Iraq. Iraq is composed of a mosaic of different religious, political, and ethnic groups. These include the Shi'ites who comprise the overwhelming majority, as well as the Sunnis, the Kurds, and the Turkemans. Now, just as you cannot have an Arab representing the Kurds, you cannot have a Kurd representing the Arabs, or a Sunni representing the Shi'ites. 
  • In the current crisis we are not talking about the small town of Falluhah which is situated in the Sunni triangle. We are dealing with the entire country where the majority Shi'ites are getting increasingly angry and frustrated with what they see as a deliberate attempt by the Coalition Forces to sideline and neglect them. The problem has the potential to spread very quickly to other parts of the nation and create an uncontrollable number of difficult fronts for the Coalition Forces.
  • We must, also, not forget one thing; a clear distinction must be made between the insurgencies in the Sunni Triangle where bodies of American contractors were recently burnt and mutilated, and the rebellion that is currently taking place in many parts of the nation. The Shi'ites have been oppressed for over 80 years, and this is exactly why the ousting of Saddam was widely welcomed by them. The reason for the swift advance of the Coalition Forces into Iraq - and with minimal losses - is that the Shi’ites avoided clashes with the US lead Coalition. 
  • Now, on the other hand, these very same people are feeling increasingly betrayed and deceived, because one year on after the fall of Saddam's notorious regime, people say the promises of stability, peace, and proper representation in the political process have not been fulfilled. 

  • You don't need a PhD in politics to notice the major inadequacies in the Governing Council, for example, and you don't need a PhD in Law to see the flaws in the Interim Constitution which gives the minorities the ability to Veto anything that the majority enacts as the permanent charter. This means that as little as %5 of the population can decide the future of the remaining %95, all in the name of democracy!

How would you suggest can the problem be fixed at this stage?


  • It was clear from the very beginning that this road had the potential to spark a civil unrest just like the one we see unfolding in Iraq as we speak. 
  • This crisis could have been avoided by exercising a reasonable degree of wisdom by the Coalition Forces. It is important for us to understand that because it also means that we can diffuse the bomb and rectify the impending problem if the Coalition Forces are willing to do so. As a short terms solution the Coalition Provisional Authority must stop the campaign of violence against the civilians, depart civilian areas especially holy Shi’ite cities such as Najaf and Karbala, and issue a public apology there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. As a medium to long term solution the Coalition policies must be reviewed and the Shi’ites given the proportionate level of representation that they deserve, otherwise this vicious circle will continue forever.

Why is it that the moderate clerics such as your uncle, Ayatollah Almodarresi and Ayatollah Sistani are not speaking up and are not doing much to calm the people down?  

  • They are speaking but the CPA is simply not listening! To put it bluntly, moderate voices must be given greater weight and respect. Such supreme clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Almodarresi and Grand Ayatollah Sistani are speaking out and calling for calm, but how can we expect them to be more vocal when they are not properly represented in the political process? Grand Ayatollah Almodarresi can play a crucial role, especially since he enjoys the respect of all the different factions, including the supporters of Al Sadr. He made a statement which was widely circulated within the western media after the ratification of the interim constitution when warned the Coalition Forces that the constitution was a "time bomb that can ignite a civil war". That warning should have been taken more seriously.
  • I believe in is in the best interest of all parties involved that weapons be laid down. You cannot wash blood with blood, and violence only breads violence. Apache gunship helicopters are not the answer to this problem, and only peaceful negotiations can breach the impasse that we are confronted with.
  • The Shi'ites expect more adequate representation in the political process and that begins by acknowledging the fact that they are a majority. General elections must be held and a system of "one person, one vote" implemented, along with a swift modification of the Interim Constitution to reflect the will of the nation at large, not just a small minority.
  • Not everyone gets what he wants in a democracy, but we should not do away with lesson No. 1 in democracy: The majority rules.




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