Ayatollah Hussein Al Sadr Close Iraqs

Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr: Close Iraq’s Borders to Mischief

In a fluff piece in al-Zaman, Shiite cleric Hussein al-Sadr, a minor member of the al-Sadr family who preaches at Kazimiya near Baghdad, said his meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell had been very fruitful. The US presumably wants to use al-Sadr, who is a moderate, to offset the popularity of his cousin, Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a radical and is anti-American. Muqtada has perhaps 2 million followers among poor, young, urban Shiites, though, whereas Hussein is just not that well known. Hussein al-Sadr, apparently worried about aid Iran may be giving Muqtada, urged that the Iraqi border be closed to mischief-making neighbors. (The huge, rugged, Iraqi-Iranian border would be virtually impossible to “close,” however. And, the inhabitants of Najaf and Karbala are eager for the Iranian pilgrim trade to resume).

Meanwhile, al-Zaman also reports that Hussein Khomeini, grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic in Iran, is coming to the United States, where he will meet with Washington power brokers. Hussein Khomeini, 40, is also a cleric, but he has recently come to Iraq and called for a separation of religion and state, and for democratic freedoms, in Iran and Iraq. He has also pushed for the establishment of new religious authorities (maraji`) in the shrine city of Karbala.

One worries that there are elements in Washington who want to invade Iran, and may hope to use Hussein Khomeini as a stalking horse. Bad idea. He has no popularity in Iran, and Iranians will be even less willing to be occupied by the US than Iraqis are.