Abdul Aziz al-Hakim Makes his move
al-Hayat: The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) in Iraq organized a demonstration in Najaf Sunday in support of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. (Implicitly, this rally served as a protest against Muqtada al-Sadr, the young radical whose sectarian movement challenges Sistani’s authority).
ash-Sharq al-Awsat: At the same time, SCIRI organized a rally in Firdaws Square in downtown Baghdad, attended by 2000 demonstrators, against the rehabilitation of former Baath party members to serve in the army and as teachers. They carried posters saying “No to the Baathists!”
My interpretation of these two demonstrations is that SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is maneuvering for his political future. His Badr Corps militia is a keen rival of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and benefits in some ways if the US removes Sadr as a political player.
On the other hand, many Iraqis will see SCIRI as a traitor for collaborating with the Americans against a fellow Shiite. SCIRI already suffers from image problems in Iraq, because it was formed under the auspices of the hardline ayatollahs in Iran, and sided with them against Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988.
Many Iraqi Shiites code SCIRI as “Iranian” even though it is made up of Iraqi expatriates who were living in Iran, and their Iraqi supporters. So, anyway, holding a demonstration against the Baathists in Baghdad and for Sistani in Najaf is an attempt to balance out these issues. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim had earlier been spoken of as a possible candidate for one of the two vice president posts in the upcoming caretaker government.