Contextual Content

Iraqi clerics against US bases

The Bush administration will have a hard time extracting a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) from the government in Baghdad – indefinitely stationing US military troops in the country just as in Japan and South Korea. Muqtada al-Sadr wants any agreement to be submitted to a national referendum. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has recently been visited by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Najaf. And he practically ordered Maliki to call a national referendum.
Now Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri – the 5th grand Ayatollah of Iraq – has issued a fatwa against the agreement.

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Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Friday prayers in Baghdad, and once again the Bush administration does not seem to be exactly popular with Iraqis.

TALAL AL SAAEDI, AL-SADR OFFICE IN KAZIMIYAH (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We are rejecting this agreement as long as our grand clerics forbid it, and we follow our grand cleric.

ESCOBAR: It looks like the Bush administration will have a really hard time extracting a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) from the government in Baghdad—indefinitely stationed US troops in the country, just as in Japan and South Korea. Muqtada al-Sadr wants any agreement to be submitted to a national referendum. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has recently been visited by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Najaf, and he practically ordered Maliki to call a national referendum. Now Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, the fifth grand ayatollah of Iraq, has issued a fatwa against an agreement. His fatwa carries a lot of weight. Ayatollah al-Haeri does not live in Najaf; he lives in Qom, religious capital of Iran, because he refuses to live under foreign occupation. Ayatollah says, and I quote the translation from the US government Open Source Center, "They want to force the Iraqi government to agree to provisions that will stamp the stigma of humiliation and disgrace on Iraqis foreheads forever. They want their dog, which is squatting on Iraq, protected from any accountability by the government or the nation." And this is Ayatollah’s money quote: "From the position of fatherhood, I give my advice to every official in this nation not to stain himself with such an agreement." Ayatollah ends with a very, very clear message. I quote: "Place your trust in Allah, close your ranks, stay alert, and watch out for your enemy." Guess what the enemy is. So why a referendum? Because Iraqi Parliament is a joke. It simply does not represent the Iraqi people. It represents only the two major Shiite parties and the two Kurdish parties. Most members, they don’t even attend the session. They spend a lot of time outside of Iraq, although they get paid huge, fat salaries. Whenever the Maliki government is afraid to lose a vote, they don’t call a one-by-one vote; they ask the floor for a simple yes or no. For the Bush administration, a referendum would be a disaster. It’s goodbye to a key benchmark, a network of US military bases in Iraq. And it might be the prelude for another goodbye—a US-redacted Iraqi oil law, favoring US and western big oil.

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