Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr
Steven R. Weisman reports of the US Secretary of State in Baghdad, Colin Powell: “On Sunday evening he dined with the senior Shiite cleric in Baghdad, Saeed Hussein Al-Sadr, a member of a prominent family with some members of the family having opposed Saddam and others now opposing the US occupation.” I’ve seen this ayatollah’s name come up before, but had no idea he was this important. Nowadays you can google and nexis anyone, even ayatollahs. So:
In February, the Cairo Times reported on anti-Saddam demonstrations in London: “‘We are against war, but we are also against dictatorship,’ Iman Hussein Al Sadr, head of the Islamic Institute in London, told the small crowd outside parliament. ‘We don’t believe that Saddam Hussein’s staying in power is less catastrophic than a war.'” I’d say he was actually for the war.
AFP reported of the April 28 leadership conference in Baghdad, “Delegate Hussein Sadr, dean of the Islamic Council in London, said Iraqis want security and stability.” On April 30, al-Ahram Weekly said, “When Hussein Al-Sadr, the director of the London-based Islamic Institute and a prominent Shi’a leader was asked by an Arab newspaper this week to define democracy he said: ‘it is to give the Iraqi people the right to express their true opinions about the US presence in their country.'”
The Guardian identified him this summer as a second cousin of the radical Muqtada al-Sadr. Jonathan Steele wrote on 31 July, “Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr, Mr Sadr’s second cousin, supports the governing council, although he turned down an invitation to join it. ‘The Americans were able to achieve something – the fall of the regime – which we couldn’t do after 30 years of bloodshed and prisons full of people,’ he said.” Another source identifies Hussein al-Sadr’s base in the Baghdad suburb and shrine center of al-Kazimiya. On June 30, Dawn (Karachi) identified Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr as the “representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Baghdad.” On August 13, CBS’s anchor Dan Rather reported, “Ambassador Paul Bremer, the man in charge of Iraq, visited a new hospital, named for the founders of the Shia sect, where he also met one of Baghdad’s leading clerics, Hussein Sadr.”
The Sadr family had produced two major martyrs and theorists of Islamic government, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (d. 1980), and Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (d. 1999), both killed by Saddam Hussein, and the family’s followers tend to be radical Shiites. Most follow Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical, or Muhammad al-Ya`qubi, also a relative radical, who founded the al-Fudala’ Party. A moderate, even pro-American member of the family would indeed be a valuable asset for the US, more especially if he is a conduit to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has refused to meet with the Americans. But dinner with the Secretary of State? Something is going on here that is not transparent.