Early Iraqi Political Parties
Dozens of political parties and groups vied for power in Iraq as the country moved from three decades of one-party rule to a multiparty democracy. Former opposition parties shifted their headquarters from places like London, Tehran, and the US, while dozens of new groupsemerged in Baghdad. Only three weeks since Saddam Hussein was removed from power, more than 40 political parties and groups had emerged in Iraq.
Among the new arrivals, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), co-founded by Ahmad Chalabi as an umbrella organization for opposition groups in exile, initially made a strong showing. The INC occupied an impressive building of the Iraqi Hunting Club in Baghdad's prestigious Mansur neighborhood, once favored by top members of the former regime. Hundreds of the INC's camouflaged men, called the Free Iraqi Forces, stood at checkpoints around Baghdad.
Sunni and Shi'a political parties had conflicting visions about the role of their communities in the country's past and in its future. There seems to be little that unites the followers of the two main branches of Islam in Iraq.
The Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), established in 1960, was the major Sunni political organization in the country and was initially represented by Muhsin Abd al-Hamid on the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. The party was suppressed during the regime of former President Saddam Hussein. Many of its members were forced to flee the country. The party returned to public life after coalition forces occupied Iraq. The IIP seeks to preserve the leading role Sunnis have had in running the country starting with the establishment of the modern Iraqi state in the beginning of the 20th century.
The religious and political activities of the Iraqi Sunnis were not restricted to the Iraqi Islamic Party. The Muslim Ulema Organization included a group of ulema and Sunni mosque imams. Another group was the Higher Secretariat for Fatwa and Islamic Teaching, Research, and Sufism for issuing fatwas. There were more than 15 fundamentalist organizations and groups that claimed to represent the Sunni resistance of the US occupation; these groups and organizations included the Iraqi Islamic National Resistance, the Salafi Movement for Islamic Call and Jihad, the Al-Qari'ah Organization, the Sunni Supporters Army, and Muhammad's Army, not to mention the Kurdish Sunni fundamentalist groups.
Al-Hawza Al-Ilmia is a powerful Shi'a movement in Baghdad. Its elders are regarded as the final authority on religious and political matters for Shi'a worldwide. The organization is based in the holy city of Al-Najaf and is headed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The de-Ba'athification process was meant to assure the Iraqi people that Saddam Hussein's regime will not return to power. Many of the members of the political parties that emerged in the wake of US-led war in Iraq had suffered persecution at the hands of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists, and welcomed the American call for de-Ba'athification. But many said they are still worried that Hussein's power structure is still largely intact. Many observers have equated de-Ba'athification with de-Nazification in Germany following World War II. But the U.S. authorities did little to eliminate the deep-seated network of the party, for fear of further contributing to the chaos that marked the weeks since the fall of Baghdad.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|