Prince says Iraqis support constitutional monarchy

Sharif Ali wants to be elected king of Iraq. He told Michael Jansen why

Sharif Ali wants to be elected king of Iraq. He told Michael Jansen why

Sharif Ali bin Hussein, the man who seeks be elected king of Iraq, is one of the few figures on the political scene who enjoys growing popularity while the status of other political figures is falling. But then, he is not a member of the US-appointed Governing Council seen by Iraqis as a tool of the occupation, inef- fective, and corrupt.

Speaking to The Irish Times in his elegant office at a villa in Baghdad, Sharif Ali says that US "policy has completely failed so far". He blames Washington for failing to "reach out to Iraqis" living in the country and relying instead on exiles who claim they can "fill the power vacuum".

He refused to join the Governing Council because he has serious doubts about its "legality and credibility.You cannot rule Iraq through exiled leaders being grafted on to Iraqi society. You cannot achieve security sitting on top of a tank, you can only help run the country by reaching out to Iraqis who have lived in Iraq."

Most of the sharif's supporters belong to the older generation which looks back with affection to the "golden days" of the monarchy, ousted by a republican coup in 1958.

But younger people, seeking security and stability, are also attracted by his call for a constitutional monarchy. Sharif Ali is a cousin of King Faisal II, murdered during the coup, and the sole surviving member of the Iraqi branch of the Hashemite dynasties installed in Iraq and Jordan by Britain after the first World War. The sharif left Iraq as an infant and lived in Beirut and London, where he worked as an investment banker.

"Sovereignty and independence should be handed back to the Iraqi people as soon as possible," he states. "The coalition has achieved its war aims. So there is really no justification for the continuation of the occupation." His party will accept "the return of sovereignty" in July, if the projected provisional government is "independent and free and not appointed by the occupying powers".

He asserts: "I think that if the Iraqi people can freely choose their system of government they will overwhelmingly support the return of the constitutional monarchy. Iraqis believe that this system is best suited to guaranteeing individual liberties, protect the country against the rise of new dictatorships, keep \ united, create institutions that are independent of political parties and prevent political parties from abusing the authority of the government to maintain themselves in power." If his party takes power, he would become the only democratically elected monarch in the world.

Sharif Ali argues that the resistance comprises many elements other than pro-Saddam groupings - Islamists, angry individuals, marginalised tribesmen, alienated Sunnis, former members of the army and intelligence services. He blames US "mistakes" for the rise of the resistance. The occupation authorities "cannot defeat the resistance militarily," he asserts.

"They may stop nine out of 10 booby trapped cars but the tenth one will get through. But neither can the resistance win. It cannot defeat the US or the coalition militarily. There has to be a political solution. In Northern Ireland, the British did not manage to defeat the the IRA. Nor did the IRA manage to defeat the British. They had to come to terms."

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