Muqtada Aid Denies Seeking Asylum in Iran; Demands release of Hostages
The LA Times reported that on Sunday, a spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr said, “There is no chance that the armies of occupation will reenter Najaf.”
Shaykh Abdul Hadi al-Darraji, an al-Sadr aide, did a live telephone interview with Jamal Rayyan of al-Jazeerah on Sunday, which has been translated by BBC monitoring. Highlights:
Rayyan asked what would happen after Arba’in, the religious festival, during which Muqtada has declared a truce with US forces.
‘ (Al-Darraji) You know that this movement is a peaceful one. It does not want confrontations and it does not accept violence or bloodshed of Muslim brothers or Muslims in general. The US and other occupation forces deliberately struck Martyr Al-Sadr’s Office in Al-Nasiriyah. This is a flagrant attack. These are terrorist acts and dictatorial practices, which the occupation forces are carrying out. This office fulfils the needs of the brother believers. It is a religious office that tries to fulfil the needs of the faithful. The office was shelled and explosives were planted inside it and it was detonated. We have demanded, and Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr is still stressing the need for the departure of the occupation forces from Iraqi cities to avoid bloodshed and to prevent what is happening now, including the killing, displacement and suffering of innocent people, including old people, women and children. ‘
Al-Darraji demanded the release of Japanese and other hostages being held in Iraq, saying that this tactic is contrary to the teachings of Islam. He praised the Japanese workers who were kidnapped for having opposed globalization, and said that that was another reason they should be released.
‘ Today, some satellite channels reported that Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, may God watch over him, is planning to seek asylum in Iran. I deny this report in part and parcel and I will convey to you what Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr said. He said: I will live and die, as my father lived and died in this beloved country.
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1702 gmt 11 Apr 04 ‘
I think it is highly unlikely that Muqtada will agree to go into exile. The problem is that Bush has gotten himself in a bind by going after him in the first place, virtually unprovoked. It is difficult for the US now to let Muqtada off the hook, since he did launch an insurgency. But if they go into Najaf to arrest him, it would be rather like invading the Vatican to get at an Irish priest who supported the IRA. It is not as if dislike of terrorism would convince most Catholics that the action had been justified. Most Shiites will be furious at the US if it invades Najaf and arrests or kills Muqtada.
Number of Muslims in the world: 1.3 billion
Percentage of them that are Shiite: 10
Number of Shiites in the world: 130,000,000
Population of Russia: 144,000,000
Distribution of Shiites: Majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan; Plurality Lebanon; about 15% in Afghanistan, Pakistan; 5% of Indian Muslims;
Percentage who would be enraged by a US Marines assault on the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf: 100
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami welcomed al-Da`wa leader Ibrahim Jaafari to Tehran. Jaafari serves on the Interim Governing Council, which Khatami praised, and which he has recognized. Khatami condemned violence against US troops, in a slam at Muqtada al-Sadr. The president has been waging his own battle against forces in Iran that think in a way similar to that of Muqtada al-Sadr. The Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Mehdi Karrubi, also recently denied Iranian involvement with al-Sadr. Although former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani did praise Muqtada as “heroic” and made no secret of his hope that the US would leave Iraq, Rafsanjani no longer has any executive power and is known for shooting his mouth off and saying wild things he never follows through on. The MEMRI/ Likud crowd in Washington tried to use Rafsanjani’s statements as proof that Iran was backing Muqtada’s insurgency, but even Rumsfeld admitted he had no proof for that.
If the American people are alarmed that Iraq is turning into another Vietnam (and a majority now are), they should think seriously about the disaster the Neocons want to drag them into in Iran.