Sam Dagher of the Christian Science Monitor is a good reason to subscribe to CSM. He reports on the way Muqtada al-Sadr is using his ‘freeze’ on Mahdi Army activities to organize cadres and turn his organization into something like Hizbullah in Lebanon. Dagher also provides the most connected and detailed count I have seen of the struggles in Karbala between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). The big question in my mind is whether a big organized Mahdi Army helps sweep Muqtada to power in the next provincial elections and in the 2009 elections for the federal parliament. By then the US military may be much weaker in the country, and the Sadrists may be in a position to push them out altogether.
McClatchy’s Jamie Gumbrecht also reports on the Sadrists, raising the question of whether Muqtada can retain control of his Mahdi Army if he continues to force them to avoid violence and mafia-type activities:
‘ “There is an entity in the Sadr trend that doesn’t want the freeze,” said Sheik Naza al Timini, a Sadr cleric in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad. “They said, ‘We have the right to use violence and force.’ We always hope for good, and we hope that the decision of Sayed Muqtada will be for the best of Iraq, but after he gives his final decision about the future of the Mahdi Army, many, I believe, will change their ideology and choose to leave the Sadr trend.”
“What he did was basically pull the rug out — ‘You can continue acting as the mafia, as the mob, but not in my name,’ ” said Peter Harling, a Sadr expert at the International Crisis Group. “It worked remarkably well, but I don’t know how sustainable this can be. (His followers) appear extremely frustrated, willing to comply with Muqtada’s decision, but not for very long.” ‘
The USG Open Source Center translated excerpts from last Friday’s sermons relevant to these issues. It points out that the Sadrists have been speaking out against the US presence in Iraq lately. And they were scathing on the visit to Washington recently of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI, or as OSC does it IISC). ISCI is a Shiite fundamentalist rival to the Sadrists that is at once more linked to the US and closer to Iran, representing the Iraqi Shiite middle and upper middle classes, while the Sadrists are mostly working class and lumpenproletariat. The sermons:
‘ Within its 1900 GMT newscast, Baghdad Al-Sharqiyah Television in Arabic – independent, private news and entertainment channel focusing on Iraq, run by Sa’d al-Bazzaz, publisher of the Arabic language daily Al-Zaman – is observed to carry the following report on today’s Friday sermons:
“Salah al-Ubaydi, spokesman for the Al-Sadr Trend termed the visit to Washington by Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council (IISC), as submission to what he called tyranny and confiscation of the history of the religious authority. Addressing worshippers during a Friday sermon at the Al-Kufah Mosque, south of Baghdad, Al-Ubaydi said that Al-Hakim’s visit to Washington is a confiscation of the religious seminary’s positions against the occupation. He stressed that it is not becoming of Abd-al-Aziz to do this, taking into consideration that he is the son of the deep-rooted religious family.”
Al-Ubaydi says: “Going there (Washington) on any pretext and regardless of the objectives does not refute at all the manifestation of submission to tyranny and injustice. Therefore, we say that it is not becoming of a person like Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim to do so.” ‘
The ISCI preachers shot back:
‘ The [al-Sharqiya television] report adds: “For his part, Sadr-al-Din al-Qabbanji, leader in the IISC, urged the leaders of the Al-Sadr Trend to purge this trend of what he termed the elements that have penetrated its ranks. In a Friday sermon in Al-Najaf, Al-Qabbanji said that hundreds of elements from the Ba’thists and other sides have penetrated the trend with the aim of disrupting security and stability in Iraq.”
Al-Qabbanji says: “The leaders of the Al-Sadr Trend are required to purge this trend of the elements that have penetrated it, of the Ba’thists and non-Ba’thists. This is what the have announced and we stress this. They said that they will purge this trend of hundreds of elements that have penetrated it. These are their official statements, of course. We stress the need to purge this body of the elements that have penetrated it. These are unacceptable elements.”
The report says: “Hamid Mu’allah (al-Sa’idi), leader in the IISC, said that the pardon the Iraqi Government plans to issue soon will not be a general amnesty, but will include a large number of whose security files have not been completed yet. In a Friday sermon at the Buratha Mosque, Al-Sa’idi said that releasing the prisoners now will significantly contribute to improving the security situation.” ‘
Another station, ISCI’s own al-Furat, gives more details on the sermons of the Supreme Council figures. ISCI preachers are trying to take the edge off the extension of the UN mandate for US troops in Iraq for another year, engineered by PM Nuri al-Maliki’s government without a vote of parliament. They are saying that this is the mandate’s last year, and that they recognize the desire of Iraqis that US troops depart. The report:
‘ Within its 1700 GMT newscast, Baghdad Al-Furat Television Channel in Arabic – television channel affiliated with the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council (IISC) led by Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim, carries the following report on today’s Friday sermons:
“Friday preachers praised His Eminence Al-Sayyid al-Hakim’s visit to the United States due to the desirable results this visit has achieved. In another development, the Friday preachers called for fighting the harmful elements that have penetrated the awakening groups in order to consolidate security in the country.”
The station then carries a report on Al-Haydari’s Friday sermon as included in the above report by Al-Sharqiyah.
On Al-Hakim’s visit to Washington, Shaykh Hamid Mu’allah al-Sa’idi says: “This visit takes place to an important place and at an extremely important time. As political observers say, this visit is an important political turning point for Iraq.” He adds that this visit is also important due to the “personality of the visitor.” He says: “It is not a secret that the family of Al-Hakim, who descends from the Al-Hakim family and Imam Muhsin al-Hakim has a great ideological, revolutionary, and religious asset.”
The channel carries an episode of its weekly “Friday Sermons” program at 1810 GMT, as follows:
Shaykh Al-Haydari says: “We have heard that the Iraqi Government has sent a letter to the UN Security Council in which it extended the mandate of the US forces for one more year. In this letter, the government said that this is the last year for this extension. This also applies to the United Nations. This means that the UN resolutions now are binding to Iraq, but it can reject them after this year. There are three points in this issue. The first point is that the Iraqi people in general do not accept the presence of foreign military bases. They reject this because this will have repercussions and problems, particularly after the new developments. America has huge fleets and aircraft carriers. These are its bases and so it does not need bases (in Iraq). The Iraqi people do not accept the occupation and they reject the bases. The Iraqis hope that there will be no foreign soldier in Iraq. The second point is that Iraq needs to come out of its status under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter.”
He adds: “In other words, ending Iraq’s status under Chapter Seven means that Iraq is fully independent. It will then take its own security and military decisions. This is a major and essential issue. This is why the government is proceeding in this direction.”
The station then repeats Shaykh Al-Sa’idi’s remarks on Al-Hakim’s visit to the United States.
Shaykh Sadr-al-Din al-Qabbanji says: “Over the past days, we have witnessed a positive development in the Arab position toward Iraq. An example of this is the statement of Prince Nayif Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, interior minister in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on punishing the preachers who incite youths to go to Iraq. This is a new open statement. This is what we used to call for; namely, to isolate the kingdom’s policy from the sectarian extremism in the kingdom. The sectarian extremism is represented in Wahhabism, which is a takfiri (holding other Muslims to be infidel) sectarian extremism. The Saudi politicians have another business, which are their national interests. There must be a separation between the kingdom’s policy and the existing sectarian extremism.” ‘
As for political violence on Monday, Reuters reports major attacks:
‘ BAGHDAD – Seven inmates were killed and 21 wounded when several mortar rounds struck an Interior Ministry jail in central Baghdad, an Iraqi security official said. The U.S. military said the attack was caused by rockets and gave a death toll of five detainees.
BAGHDAD – Six bodies were found dumped across Baghdad on Monday, police said. . .
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb wounded four police commandos and one civilian in eastern Baghdad’s Baladiyat district, police said.
BAGHDAD – Five people were wounded by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad’s Mansour district, police said. Three policemen were among the wounded, another police source said.
BAGHDAD – Gunmen killed two civilians in their car in central Baghdad’s Karrada district, police said. . .
TUZ KHURMATO – A roadside bomb detonated at a police patrol killing four policemen including a colonel and wounding seven others in Tuz Khurmato, 70 km south of Kirkuk, police said.
BAIJI – A suicide car bomber killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded two others in an attack on a checkpoint in the city of Baiji, 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. . .
BUHRIZ – One policeman and a civilian were killed in clashes between police and gunmen in Buhriz, 60 km (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said. A child, a woman and two policemen were among five people wounded and 10 cars were destroyed. . . ‘
Around 6,00 am, gunmen launched Katyosha rocket targeting Doura refinery south Baghdad sparking a big fire. A big smoke cloud covered the area. A source in the ministry of oil who talked on condition of anonymity said that the fire fighters team would control the fire and put it off in the few coming hours confirming that the fire doesn’t have any effect on the daily fuel supply to the fuel stations, police said. The National Media Center issued a press release saying that the refinery was targeted with 4 mortar shells while the Public Affairs Office in the Multi National Corp- Iraq said in its press release that the fire started at 9,00 am because of pipe explosion without giving any further details about the reason of the explosion of the pipe.
Around 6,00 am, a Katyosha rocket fell in Al Sharikat intersection in Karrada neighborhood downtown Baghdad. No casualties reported. . .
2 national police members were injured in an IED explosion that targeted their patrol in Qahtan square in Yarmouk neighborhood west Baghdad around 5,30 pm.
Police found 6 anonymous bodies in Baghdad today in the following g neighborhoods (2 bodies in Doura, 1 body in Amil, 1 body in Sadr city, 1 body in Boob Al Sham and 1 body in New Baghdad.
An Iraqi army soldier was wounded in a suicide car bomb that targeted a check point of the Iraqi army north Biji north of Tikrit city around 9,30 am.
A civilian was injured seriously when gunmen attacked him while he was inside his car on the street of Kirkuk _Berdi north of Kirkuk city today afternoon.
Police found an anonymous body of a woman on Hamdan street south of Basra city. Police said that the woman was shot in different areas of her body. ‘