3000 Iranian Pilgrims a Day foreseen for Iraq
According to AFP, another son of SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Muhsin al-Hakim, announced that he had negotiated a deal with the Interim Governing Council and the Iranian government to allow 3,000 Iranian pilgrims to enter Iraq every day.
If the negotiated number of pilgrims actually came, they would amount to just over a million a year. This massive movement of so many pilgrims from Iran through Iraq (and some of the pilgrims will actually come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan to Iran’s east) will pose severe security headaches for the US and its partners in Iraq. Some of the pilgrims will be Iranian Revolutionary Guards or SAVAMA spies, and some of them may be saboteurs in the service of Iranian hardliners seeking to make mischief. Still, the vast majority of Iraqi pilgrims will just be pilgrims. One also wonders whether Iraqi Shiites might not get exposed to Iranian religious reformism in this way.
The upside is that if each pilgrim spends as little as $300 in Iraq, that will be an income to the shrine cities and their merchants and people of $300 mn. a year, which is not peanuts. Obviously, Iran’s over 60 million Shiites could end up spending literally billions in Iraq every year, a prospect over which the retailers in the shrine cities are salivating.
There are several major pilgrimage sites in Iraq, including the shrines at Najaf (Imam `Ali), Karbala (Imam Husayn), Kazimiya (Imams Musa al-Kazim [# 7] and Muhammad al-Jawad [#9]), and Samarra (Imam Ali al-Hadi [#10] and Imam Hasan al-`Askari [#11] [Samarra’ is also holy as a place associated with the disappearance of the 12th Imam, the return of whom Shiites await as their supernatural savior]).