Kadhim on the Najaf Crisis
Abbas Kadhim, an Iraqi Shiite scholar who knows Najaf intimately, has published an op-ed that questions the common wisdom about the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr.
He points out that, despite the claims of some politicians in the Allawi government, Iran is not in fact implicated in the Sadr movement.
‘ It is undeniable that Iran monitors the situation in Iraq with great interest, firstly as the country sharing the longest border with Iraq and secondly in its capacity as self- appointed champion of the Shia wherever they might be. It is also naive to expect Iranian intelligence agencies to refrain from conducting business in a country where others have already set up shop. But in doing so, Iran is no different than the rest of Iraq’s neighbours, except for the fact that its relations with the US are less than amicable . . . Given the strong Shia identity of many Iranian visitors to Najaf and Karbala, it is not inconceivable that some of them join the ranks of the Mahdi Army, especially when confronted with the attack on the shrine of Ali Ibn Abi Talib and fellow Shia losing their lives. But it does not logically follow that the Iranian government has played a role in this. ‘
He also says that “others are still clinging to the claim that Moqtada Al-Sadr is a hardliner who is impossible to appease.”
His reply to this argument is as follows
‘ Moqtada Al-Sadr’s success in acquiring power is more a result of the failure of others to fill the power vacuum than his own charisma. . . If the only test for legitimacy in Iraq is the withdrawal of the occupation force, then Moqtada Al-Sadr will be the last viable Shia leader standing. This is especially true as long as Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani is not very keen on full engagement with the political process . . . Politically, the government of Allawi is not gaining any popularity for two main reasons: firstly because of heavy-handed policies — curfews and clampdowns have alienated many people without making a significant difference on the security front. Secondly, the government has not succeeded in distinguishing itself in any practical way from the regime that was in place before it took charge . . . They must also realise that calling on the Americans to bomb holy cities on their behalf is not the way to garner support and cultivate favour ahead of future elections. ‘
Which raises the question: Have the Americans created Muqtada as a contender by attacking him since last April?