As part of his effort to influence the political forces in Iraq prior to the forthcoming parliamentary election, at the end of November Muqtada al-Sadr had his supporters distribute the draft of a “Pact of Honor,” and called on Iraqi parties to discuss and collectively adopt it at a conference to be organized before the election.
This conference was actually held on Thursday, December 8, in al-Kadhimiya (North of Baghdad). Despite extensive search, I found it only reported in a relatively short article in today’s Al-Hayat and in dispatches from the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA). There is legitimate ground to suspect that this media blackout has political significance; indeed most initiatives by the Sadrist current are hardly reported by the dominant media, even when they consist of important mass demonstrations (like those organized yesterday in Southern Iraq against British troops).
In the case of the recent conference, the vast array of forces that were represented and that signed the “Pact of Honor” is in itself already worthy of attention. Aside from the Sadrists, chiefly represented by their MPs, those represented and who signed the document included: SCIRI, al-Daawa (al-Jaafari’s personal representative even apologized in his name for his absence due to his traveling outside of Iraq), and the Iraqi Concord Front (the major Sunni electoral alliance in the forthcoming election), to name but the most prominent of a long list of organizations, along with several tribal chiefs, unions and other social associations, members of the De-Ba’athification Committee and a few government officials. Ahmad Chalabi — who definitely deserves to be called “The Transformer” — attended in person and signed the document in the name of his group. It seems that the Association of Muslim Scholars did not attend, as its name is not mentioned in any of the two sources.
According to the reports, the “Pact of Honor” that was adopted consists of 14 points, among which the following demands and agreements are the most important (the sentences in quotation marks are translated from the document as quoted in the reports):
· “withdrawal of the occupiers and setting of an objective timetable for their withdrawal from Iraq”; “elimination of all the consequences of their presence, including any bases for them in the country, while working seriously for the building of [Iraqi] security institutions and military forces within a defined schedule”;
· suppression of the legal immunity of occupation troops, a demand coming with the condemnation of their practices against civilians and their breach of human rights;
· categorical rejection of the establishment of any relations with Israel;
· “resistance is a legitimate right of all peoples, but terrorism does not represent legitimate resistance”; “we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing, abducting and expulsion aimed at innocent citizens for sectarian reasons”;
· “to activate the de-Ba’athification law and to consider that the Ba’ath party is a terrorist organization for all the tyranny it brought on the oppressed sons of Iraq, and to speed up the trial of overthrown president Saddam Hussein and the pillars of his regime”;
· “to postpone the implementation of the disputed principle of federalism and to respect the people’s opinion about it.”
The conference established a committee that is responsible for following up the implementation of the resolutions and reporting on it after six months.
If anything, the conference was a testimony to the increasing importance of the Sadrist current. As for the actual implementation of its resolutions, it will greatly depend on the pressure that the same current will be able to exert after the forthcoming election, if the United Iraqi Alliance — of which the Sadrists are a major pillar on a par with SCIRI — succeeds in getting a commanding position in the next National Assembly.
Gilbert Achcar is from Lebanon, where he lived until 1983. He resides presently in Berlin and teaches politics and international relations at the University of Paris 8. A frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique and ZNet, he authored several books on international politics and the Middle East, including â€œThe Clash of Barbarismsâ€ (second edition coming out in March 2006) and â€œEastern Cauldronâ€ (2004).