Sistani Supports Conference for National Reconciliation
Al-Hakim, Sadr Opposed
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has thrown his weight behind the Arab League initiative for a national reconciliation conference in Iraq. Sistani has all along behind the scenes attempted to reach out to the Sunnis. He managed to convince a few to run on the United Iraqi Alliance list. And he pressed hard for greater Sunni Arab representation on the Iraqi cabinet last spring (though not to much avail, unfortunately). Aljazeerah is reporting that Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani is also supporting the conference. There is some hope that the Arab League can effectively reach out to those Sunni Arabs in Iraq who are still willing to talk to the new political leadership.
Al-Hayat reports that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and Muqtada al-Sadr, both reject the Arab League initiative. I think it would be fairer to say that Muqtada in particular wants the Arab League to publicly repudiate its past support for Saddam and to apologize for not having protested the massacre of Shiites, so that the organization could have any hope of playing the role of honest broker.
Al-Zaman reported on Friday that Mawla al-Musawi, the head of the politburo of “God’s Vengeance Party” [Hizb Tha’r Allah] in Basra, accused the Fadilah Party there of having put the Basra provincial governor (a member of Fadilah) up to sending a police team into the Andalus Quarter to arrest “God’s Vengeance” secretary-general Yusuf al-Musawi. The attendant fighting killed one and wounded 14. British forces and Basra police have fanned out through the city. Mawla al-Musawi said that the real issue is that the governor is a partisan of Fadilah (the “Virtue Party,” a splinter group of the Sadr movement that recognizes Muhammad Yaqubi rather the Muqtada al-Sadr as their leaders). Rumors are circulating in Basra that the God’s Vengeance Party is supported by Iran, and the British forces are said to share this suspicion.
Sameer Yaqoub points out that despite almost universal negative attitudes to the constitution on the part of Sunni Arabs, it is nevertheless likely to become law.