Iranian Factions Divided On Which Iraqi

Iranian Factions divided on which Iraqi Shiites to support

According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, reformist president Ali Khatami of Iran is supporting Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and had invited him to Iran. It says the reformists had refused to meet with the radical Muqtada al-Sadr on his visit to Iran last June, whereas many hardliners supported Muqtada and continue to do so.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat maintains that the hardliners in Iran, including the Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Brigade, and the security unit attached to Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, had grown cold toward the al-Hakims in recent weeks. The reason was that the al-Hakims had refused to serve as tools of Iran in Iraq and had insisted on the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq having a seat on the American-appointed Interim Governing Council. He says that Khamenei had sent a delegation to Najaf to represent him there, and had wanted Abdul Aziz al-Hakim to subordinate himself to it and to him after the assassination of his elder brother, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, on August 29. Khamenei is represented in Najaf by Ayatollah Ali al-Haeri. Khamenei and his circle felt that SCIRI should be led by an Object of Emulation (a cleric who is followed by many laymen), and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim lacks this stature. By accepting Ali al-Haeri as the SCIRI spiritual guide, he could have repaired that gap.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat also alleges that the Revolutionary Guards are supporting the radical Sunni Ansar al-Islam group, and that al-Hakim pleaded with them to stop doing so. I don’t find the allegation plausible, and often find that in its Iran coverage the newspaper reports such conspiracy theories uncritically, apparently because its Iranian sources wish to have the Americans overthrow the ayatollahs.

SCIRI and the al-Hakims have long had good relations with Khamenei and the hardliners, and I am not entirely sure that the shift that al-Sharq al-Awsat reports is so clear or absolute as this article makes it seem. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim had accepted the Khomeinist doctrine of the Rule of the Cleric, which Ali Sistani and others in the Najaf tradition reject. I doubt Abdul Aziz has changed his mind about this, and the doctrine puts him closer to the hardliners in Iran than to the reformers. On the other hand, it is true that the Iranian hardliners would be upset about Abdul Aziz serving on the Interim Governing Council. But then the Iranians are also said to be giving money to Ahmad Chalabi, who also serves on the IGC, so how upset could they be?