Dawa Party Background
Aaron Glantz gives an overview of the Dawa Party of Ibrahim Jaafari since 1980. One thing I would quibble with is that the dispute in the late 1980s was not over how close to be to the Iranian regime. It was over whether to keep the party autonomous or meld it in to a simple loyalty to Khomeini, the Supreme Jurisprudent. Jaafari and other lay leaders didn’t want to just become Khomeini’s Party of God, but wanted Dawa to keep its own identity as a political party. For this reason a lot of lay Dawa leaders started saying that they followed Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut; he was conveniently far away.
A scholarly survey of Dawa and its relationship with the Shiite clergy by Keiko Sakai is now available on the Web.
Things have changed, and I am not at all suggesting that a vindictive attitude is appropriate, but Dawa has a background as a terrorist organization. While in Tehran, it spun off a shadowy set of special ops units generically called “Islamic Jihad,” which operated in places like Kuwait and Lebanon. The Dawa’s Islamic Jihad appears to have been at the nexus of splinter groups that later, in 1982, began to coalesce into Hezbollah (the 1983 truck bombing of US Marines is often blamed on “Hezbollah,” but that organization barely existed then.) The current al-Dawa leadership repudiates these anti-West actions, and blames them on cells of al-Dawa temporarily taken over by Iranian elements. The arrest lists do not support this excuse. No one seems to want to bring up the following:
U.S. News & World Report
December 26, 1983 / January 2, 1984
The New Face of Mideast Terrorism
A new brand of terrorism confronting the U.S. in the Mideast was demonstrated in the closing days of 1983 when a suicide bomber wrecked the American Embassy in Kuwait.
Actions that once were hallmarks of Mideast radicals — takeovers of buildings, hijackings of airliners and seizing of hostages — are waning. In their place: Terrorism sponsored by governments — notably Iran and Syria — and carried out by Moslem fanatics fired by hatred of the U.S. and a desire for martyrdom.
Prompted as much by current issues as by ideology, the new terrorism is more lethal, widespread and harder to contain than terrorism of the 1970s.
U.S. officials blamed the December 12 bombing of their embassy in Kuwait on ”Islamic fundamentalists” of the Shiite sect, backed by Iran and Syria.
The Americans charged that the attack was ”clearly connected” to three disastrous bombings in Beirut — one in April that killed more than 60 people at the U.S. Embassy and two suicide attacks in October that killed more than 240 American servicemen at the Marine barracks and 58 soldiers at the French peacekeeping headquarters. Shiites also are blamed for a bomb that killed 61 persons at an Israeli command center in southern Lebanon in November.
Suspicion for the attacks in Lebanon centered on one group — the Islamic Jihad [Holy War], a secretive Shiite unit based in Syrian-controlled eastern Lebanon. It is closely linked to the Iranian regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who calls the U.S. the ”great Satan.”
The terrorist who detonated the truckload of explosives at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait was identified as a 25-year-old Iraqi belonging to an outlawed Moslem unit, the Iranian Dawa Group.
The Associated Press
February 11, 1984, Saturday
Trial Of Bomb Blast Defendants Opens
By ALY MAHMOUD (KUWAIT)
Twenty-one defendants accused of bombing the U.S. and French Embassies last December were formally arraigned today, as their trial began under extreme security.
To be tried in absentia are four defendants who are at large, the prosecutor general said.
Five people were killed and 86 injured in the rash of bombings on Dec. 12. Besides the U.S. and French embassies, four Kuwaiti targets were bombed.
The prosecution has demanded the death penalty for 19 of the defendants. The others are believed to have played a lesser role in the bombings in and around the capital of this oil-rich Arab nation . . . Of the other defendants, 17 are Iraqis; two, Lebanese, three, Kuwaitis and two are stateless. Most of them said they belonged to Al-Dawa (Islamic Call) Party, an Iraqi movement of Shiite Moslem fanatics who are pro-Iranian, said court sources who asked not to be identified.
The Associated Press
September 21, 1986, Sunday
Underground Iraqi Group Threatens French Hostages
An Iraqi opposition group warned Sunday that French hostages in Lebanon will suffer if two Iraqis deported from France last February are not allowed to return to Paris soon. The statement was issued by the Beirut-based regional office of the Dawa Party, which is made up of Iraqi Shiite Moslems and supports mainly Shiite Iran in its 6-year-old war with Iraq. Iraq’s government is made up mainly of Sunni Moslems. France deported the two students, Fawzi Hamzeh and Hassan Kheireddin, reported to be Dawa members, along with 11 other Middle Easterners after a series of terrorist bombings. The pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad organization, which has close ties with Dawa, said in March that it killed French hostage Michel Seurat in retaliation for the deportation. His body was not found . . .
The Associated Press
December 27, 1986, Saturday
Five Groups Claim Responsibility; Iraq Accuses Iran
BYLINE: By HAFEZ ABDEL-GHAFFAR
DATELINE: DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia
Five groups in Lebanon claimed responsibility for the attempted hijacking of an Iraqi jet, but conflicting accounts remained of what happened before the jetliner crashed, killing at least 62 people. Iraqi Airways flight 163 was en route to Amman, Jordan, from Baghdad, Iraq, on Christmas Day when it crash landed in northern Saudi Arabia. The death toll was thought to be the highest in a hijacking or attempted hijacking in the history of air piracy . . . Another an anonymous caller to a Western news agency claimed responsibility on behalf of Islamic Jihad, or Islamic Holy War, a fundamentalist Shiite Moslem faction loyal to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini . . . He told a Western news agency the hijackers acted in cooperation with the Dawa party of pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites. The caller demanded the release of two hijackers he said were arrested after the crash.
I have no idea if Jaafari was involved in any of this, though he admits to running attacks in the 1980s against the Saddam regime in Iraq. I am just saying that the Dawa Party has a history that must be recognized if we are to assess the meaning of it coming to power in Baghdad today.
Former terrorists often come to power– Menachem Begin, Nelson Mandela, etc. etc. The successful ones are able to develop a new and inclusive political style and to put away the violence and rashness of their youth. Begin in his memoirs had actually boasted about shooting down innocent Palestinians at Deir Yassin, but then he made peace with Egypt. Mandela reached out to the Afrikaaners. The way Jaafari is talking, of including the Sunni Arabs, is promising. Is he a Mandela?