Tension in Najaf between SCIRI and Sadrists
Hamza Hendawi of AP recently reported on the rising tensions between the followers of young radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other Shiite factions in Iraq.
In my own view, such tension is a side effect of the rise of the Shiites to political prominence. As the community becomes a prime source of power, the struggle to control it will intensify.
Hendawi’s report is borne out by a piece in Xinhua on Tuesday 2/3, which says that tensions are high in Najaf because of disputes between the Sadrist militia and the Badr Corps of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, in part over control of the shrine of Imam Ali. Its reporter wrote, ‘”The shrine of the Imam Ali (the forth caliph at the Islamic State) is closed to visitors for days now, and the situation is very tense,” [Aswad] Al Abayachi said and advised us to return immediately to Baghdad.‘
The word on the street in Najaf, according to Xinhua, is that Muqtada al-Sadr, 30, has lost the political spotlight to Sistani, 73, recently and wants to regain it. Also, it was alleged that Sadr was using his office inside the Imam Ali Shrine complex at Najaf as a court in which to try people. Followers of Sistani demanded that the office be closed, provoking the tension.
Xinhua said, “Some Iraqi newspapers mentioned lately that the IGC gave Al Sadr a 48-hour deadline to cancel the court that he formed and close the prison that came with the court and hand the detainees to the government. They pointed out that the Council had decided to send a special delegation to Najaf to mediate between the two disputing parties.
Many observers expect tensions among Shiites to peak during the upcoming Ashura mourning ceremonies, in which emotions run high and tens of thousands of pilgrims will come to Najaf and Karbala.