Sistani Aides Killed UIC Unconcerned with Sadrists’ Departure

AP reports that two more aides to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani were assassinated on Friday, bringing the total since late August to 5. Some worshippers who follow Sistani in Basra cancelled Friday prayers, and their mosques stayed empty, in protest. AP says that the governor of Basra, Misbah al-Wa’ili, called for better security for these clerics. That is pretty pitiful, since al-Wa’ili is, like, the governor of Basra.

Some sources intimate that Sunni Arab guerrillas are killing Sistani’s aides, in order to foster Shiite on Shiite violence. It seems a little unlikely, however, that Sunnis could function so effectively in mainly Shiite areas, including the holy city of Najaf itself, where aides were killed earlier. The most likely culprits in my view are some small fringe offshoot of the Sadr Movement (not
, I emphasize, the mainstream Sadrists of Muqtada al-Sadr).

Meanwhile, the USG Open Source Center analyzes the reaction of the United Iraqi Alliance [the main Shiite fundamentalist coalition] to the recent withdrawal from it of the Sadr movement.

“Iraq: Al-Sadr Trend Withdrawal Unlamented by UIC Leadership
Iraq — OSC Report
Friday, September 21, 2007

Iraq: Al-Sadr Trend Withdrawal Unlamented by UIC Leadership; Advocates of Internal Reform Express Frustration

The leadership of the Unified Iraqi Coalition reacted with equanimity to the 15 September withdrawal of the Al-Sadr Trend from the ruling Shiite coalition, with some figures playing down the significance and bluntly charging their erstwhile ally as having been a hindrance to the UIC’s agenda.

Elsewhere within the UIC, however, party leaders who had expressed hopes to see the coalition reorganized and reoriented pushed for a return of the Al-Sadr Trend — apparently out of fear of losing a counterweight to the dominant Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council (IISC) and the Islamic Da’wah Party (IDP). In explaining the Al-Sadr Trend’s decision to withdraw, representatives of the movement pointed to the unilateral decisionmaking and negotiating typical of the IISC and IDP’s manner of conducting UIC business.

UIC leaders showed no alarm at the withdrawal of the Al-Sadr Trend, maintaining that it would pose no real obstacle to the UIC achieving its goals. Indeed, officials representing the bloc’s leadership implied that the Al-Sadr departure would only improve the UIC’s progress.

Shrugging off reports that “bands” within the UIC were seeking to bring the Al-Sadr Trend back to the coalition, senior IISC official Jalal al-Din al-Saghir charged that for the past 10 months the Sadrists had “failed to operate in harmony with the UIC” by “not voting on most occasions and not adopting the position of the UIC” (Buratha News, 18 September).

Ascribing the Al-Sadr Trend withdrawal to an “ancient fight” with the IISC, Al-Maliki adviser Sami al-Askari complained that the Sadrists “would not vote with what the coalition voted, and most of their proposals ran counter to its proposals” (Al-Mashriq, 19 September). In addition, senior IDP official Ali Adib charged the Sadrists with delaying the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle (Buratha News, 16 September).

In contrast, leaders of UIC parties who have been pushing for a reassessment and restructuring of the Shiite coalition pressed for a return of the Sadrists.

Abd al-Karim al-An[i]zi, leader of the Islamic Da’wah Iraq Organization (IDIO), threatened that his party would follow the Al-Sadr Trend’s example if the UIC did not respond to his plans for a major overhaul of the group. Although the IDIO subsequently disavowed his threat, one IDIO MP agreed that the UIC needed to be “rebuilt” for the sake of its unity and future effectiveness (Buratha News, 17 September).

Complaining that “the other forces (in the UIC) feel that they have been isolated,” Al-Anzi stressed the importance of repairing the rifts that have plagued the UIC and observed that it was necessary to “think seriously about forming a new Coalition with the Al-Sadr Trend, the Fadilah Party, and others” (Aswat al-Iraq, 16 September). He described the August alliance drawn up directly between the IISC and the IDP and the two ruling Kurdish parties as the UIC’s ruling groups’ “diplomatic withdrawal” from the bloc.

Qasim Dawud, who heads the “Solidarity Bloc” — a small group of independent MPs formed within the UIC to combat what Dawud called its “narrow and odious sectarian atmosphere” (Al-Hayah, 31 January) — urged that the Sadrists’ grievances be taken seriously.

Dawud viewed the Al-Sadr Trend’s withdrawal as “certainly negative” but voiced hope that the Sadrists would return to contribute to a “fundamental transformation of perspective, philosophy, and structure” that would enable the UIC to “get out of the bottleneck and the sectarian regimentation” (Nahrayn news site, 17 September).
Solidarity MP Muhammad al-Haydari called for “fast and frank dialogue” with the Sadrists, adding: “We in the Solidarity Bloc call for reforms within the UIC and a transparent, responsible review of all matters and issues” (Belagh, 19 September).

According to statements from Sadrist officials, it was the unilateral moves of the IISC and IDP leaders — and especially the surreptitious negotiations behind those parties’ August four-member alliance with the Kurdish parties — that soured the Sadrists’ view of the UIC.

Shaykh Abd al-Razzaq al-Nidawi, an Al-Sadr Trend media official, identified as “perhaps foremost” of the reasons behind the withdrawal the fact that “the UIC leadership has for the past span of time been discussing alliances here and there without consulting the Al-Sadr Trend” (Al-Huda website (www.al-hodaonline.com), 17 September).

Al-Sadr Trend MP Ghafran Sa’d reported that the UIC leaders “do many things without consulting (the member parties),” complaining: “The Al-Sadr Bloc had no (prior) knowledge of the four-member alliance” (Nahrayn Net, 16 September).

On the eve of the withdrawal’s announcement, an Al-Sadr-oriented news website cited an unidentified “leader” in the movement as complaining of the “control of certain parties over the (UIC’s) decisions” (Fighting Al-Amarah News Net, 15 September). “

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