Friday, January 16, 2009

Shia Islam on the move: Southern Iraq

Now we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin, sings Leonard Cohen. Shia Islam is on a similar march. Iraq's biggest Shiite party is hoping for a big win in elections on 31 January across the oil-rich south when voters across the country choose members of ruling provincial councils.

The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council needs to win control of Najaf — which it wants as a future capital of an autonomous southern Iraq. A good victory now will jump-start its campaign for a self-ruled region — a move that would transform Iraq and, critics say, give Iran its biggest prize since the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

No wonder the Arab World is anxious. We must see the manner in which Saudi Arabia, fearful of the influence of Iran, likes to see Iran's image wane, hence Saudi's happiness with Hamas being given a good beating.

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