Viewpoint: Iraqi power vs. American power

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    There are many powerful actors found within the United States and Iraq that helps us understand just what is power in each state. One of the most powerful actors for Iraq is the leader of the Shiites, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The respected leader stated that “members of an interim assembly must be chosen through direct elections, putting at risk White House plans to transfer sovereignty to Iraqis” (NYT, Jan. 12, 2004. p. A1).

    With another powerful actor, sixty percent of the Iraq population made up of Shiites, there is an overwhelming following to the leaders remarks. Many may argue that the American power is more dominant, however their power is questioned as Ayatollah Sistani’s statements has “forced American officials to scrap their original plans for writing a constitution” (NYT, Jan. 12, 2004. p. A1).

    So is the U.S. getting what they want? It appears that Iraq is not as weak as many people think. “The Bush Administration is under growing pressure from Iraqi Leaders to shift course and transfer power to an expanded version of its handpicked Iraqi Governing Council, which would then prepare for a direct election” (NYT, Jan 23, 2004. p. A1). It seems as though the caucus that the Bush Administration is pushing for is not going to happen. Even the hopes of the written constitution that would “include a bill of rights, details of a federalist government structure for Iraq, [and] a mechanism for judicial review” is doubtful as the “Governing Council [has] struggled to keep the document on track” (NYT, Jan. 26, 2004. p. A11). Now not only does it seem that the powerful are not getting what they want but also are being hurt at the same time. The U.S. appears to be in a no-win situation because “the picture of real democracy will not be achieved unless [Iraq has] direct elections” (NYT, Jan. 22, 2004. p. A8). The continuing violence in Iraq is also a large obstacle for the Bush administration. However, “to argue that security is a serious impediment…would be to admit that American forces are unable to quell the running war with the insurgents” (NYT, Jan. 22, 2004. p. A8). It seems as though the Bush administration is taking hits from both sides as the direct election is gaining more momentum and their efforts for peace are not successful.

    Since the day that America established itself in Iraq and implemented its plans, not much else has been done in favor of the U.S. The general conclusion about the importance of various power resources and capabilities are that even though the U.S. appears to have dominant power over Iraq in many regards, they lack one of the most influential powers that Iraq possesses, political influence. With the majority of the population in favor of Ayatollah Sistani, “tens of thousands of demonstrators put pressure on the United States to change its plans…[supporting] calls by Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for direct elections” (NYT, Jan 16, 2004. p. A1). It is evident that the U.S. lacks the power necessary to get what they want and they recognize that as “there is a building inclination in the [Bush] administration to give this problem to the United Nations, if the U.N. will take it”(NYT, Feb 4, 2004. p. A10). The general feeling about the U.S.’s plans is best summed up by “I don’t think it’s going to work. I don’t think Sistani is going to play ball” (NYT, Feb. 4, 2004. p. A10) because he and his followers are the most important and powerful actors in this conflict.

    Robert Ross

    Casa Grande, Ariz.

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