Interview with Mohammed Baqr al-Najafi

On April 11, I interviewed Mohammed Baqr Al-Najafi, the representative for Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Los Angeles. We talked about Sistani’s position on elections, security, Muqtada al-Sadr and American intentions in Iraq. What’s most interesting about this interview is the dangling of the possibility of restoring the 1925 constitution in order to hold elections, after which legitimately elected officials could write a permanent constitution. This would remove most of the Ayatollah’s objections to the current interim law.

On April 11, I interviewed Mohammed Baqr Al-Najafi, the representative for Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. He’s his right-hand man in America and he lives in Los Angeles. We talked about Sistani’s position on elections, security, Muqtada al-Sadr and American intentions in Iraq. As promised, here follows a lightly edited transcript of the interview. The only changes I made were to clean up a few confusing sentences and add one explanatory note. I think what’s most interesting about this interview is the dangling of the possibility of restoring the 1925 constitution in order to hold elections, after which legitimately elected officials could write a permanent constitution. This would remove most of the Ayatollah’s objections to the current interim law, Najafi said.
Also, don’t forget about the “Majority Report”:http://www.majorityreportradio.com/weblog/ tonight night on “Air America Radio”:http://www.airamericaradio.com/. I will be on during the 8 p.m. EDT hour and “Atrios”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/ will be co-hosting with Sam Seder.
My apologies for the earlier typos. I was rushing to get the transcript up for the Majority Report show. They should be fixed now.

My first question is, when were you last in Iraq?
Unfortunately, we fled the country in November 1981, and we haven’t had a chance to come back.
Have you been in LA ever since?
No, I was here since 2000.
What is your relationship with the Ayatollah?
Ayatollah Sistani needs representatives around the world in order to solve the religious – in order to help the religious people around the world and I am considered as a representative of the Ayatollah in Los Angeles.
Do you speak for the Ayatollah, as a spokesperson?
In the religious problems, yes, I have permission to speak for him. But as far as the political situation, he didn’t give permission to anyone outside of Iraq. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t show the overall path for the Shi’as regarding the current situation. But regarding the political position, it’s the responsibility of the Sayyid himself.
What does the Ayatollah think the Americans should do in Iraq to generate goodwill and help Iraq get back on its feet?
The Ayatollah thinks that everything good for people comes from the will of the people. And the will of the people comes with the freedom to choose what they want. And the freedom for choosing what they want will bring stability to t he country. Security can’t come with force. Maybe security can be achieved temporarily with force, but it can’t last forever. Security can only be achieved by the will of the people.
What is the Ayatollah’s current position on the interim law.
It is a negative opinion regarding the interim law.
Can you expand on that, please?
There are many positive things in the interim law regarding freedom of religion and personal freedom, but this does not satisfy the heart and flows of the Iraqi people. But the most important thing is that it wasn’t written and it wasn’t shown to the Iraqi people before it was approved. The law for the people should be taken from the people themselves in order to know the mood of the people.

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