The USG Open Source Center translates an interview with Shiite clerical leader Muqtada al-Sadr, broadcast in Arabic into Iraq by the Iranian al-Alam satellite television channel, which is widely watched by Iraqi Shiites. Coming on the eve of the election, the interview seems aimed at helping al-Sadr’s National Iraqi Alliance, which groups several Shiite religious parties that have good relations with Iran and several of which are eager to accelerate the US military withdrawal.
Sadr’s main points are:
1. Iraqis should vote to put in members of parliament who will support a quicker US withdrawal;
2. Members of parliament should not server Shiite, Sunni or Kurd but rather the Iraqi nation;
3. Regardless of the election outcome, people should not riot or resort to violence, but rather should stage peaceful demonstrations;
4. Sadr does not rule out a coalition with even secular parties as long as they will agree to accelerate the US withdrawal;
5. Sadr declines to condemn Saudi Arabia or Saudi money in Iraqi politics as long as that money helps elect nationalists who will work for a US withdrawal; he points out that he has visit Saudi Arabia, and condemns the friction between Shiites and Sunnis;
6. No Iraqi government will be favorable toward Israel.
Iraqi Shiite Figure Al-Sadr Rejects Violence
Saturday, March 6, 2010 . . .
Document Type: OSC Summary . . .
Tehran Al-Alam Television in Arabic at 1716 GMT on 6 March broadcast a recording of a news conference by Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Tehran. Al-Sadr said during the news conference that he has rejected violence and any “immoral” acts.
Al-Sadr said: “In the name of God the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate. . . I say that despite the fact that I was, I still am and will continue to reject the American and other occupation of Iraq and the sacred Iraqi territory. However, this does not mean that I reject the current election process.
“In the past, I used to say that the elections or any political process under occupation is null and void and has no meaning or effect. However, in this stage of the elections, we wish that the Iraqi people make this election process a political resistance action, in the hope that we may be able to drive away the occupier through these elections. The occupier holds on to the (pretext) that the Iraqi government is the one that asks it to remain in Iraq.
“In case the believers, sincere and patriotic people obtain parliamentary seats, this will be a door to the liberation of Iraq and to driving out the occupier and to something else which is important and which is to serve the Iraqi people. Serving the Iraqi people is a duty. We see that many members of the previous government, I would say, were not people to serve the Iraqi people in the past four years. It is hoped that the presence of believers and sincere people in large numbers will be a door to serving the Iraqi people and not to serving parties, sectarianism and personal and partisan interests.
“Thus, I pray God Almighty and I hope that the believers from the believer Iraqi people go to the polls and vote for the one who is able to be loyal to the Iraqi people, to be the liberator of the Iraqi people and be a mujahid [struggler for the Faith] and a man of resistance with political resistance of and for the Iraqi people, a servant of the Iraqi people and not serve himself and his faction and party; no.
“I want from all the believers to be Iraqis only and not serve their party or faction. Let us talk frankly: I do not want the Shi’i to serve the Shi’i and the Sunni serve the Sunni and the Kurd serve the Kurd. No. I want the Iraqi to serve the Iraqi, whether he is a Kurd, a Shi’i, a Torkoman or a Sunni or a member of any other Iraqi sect, whether a minority or a majority one. Thee important thing for the believers who obtain seats is to serve the Iraqi people and not their faction or party.
“This is the first thing. The second thing which is also important is that I heard, and perhaps it is true, that acts of rioting will take place after the elections and acts of, let us say, violence and unhealthy acts will take place after the elections. This is completely rejected. Yes, there is a possibility and I have great fears of rigging. The occupier is present and rigging must certainly be a possibility. This does not mean however that you carry out acts of rioting or immoral acts. No. You have peaceful means and peaceful protests you must adopt but anything more than that is not possible and in that there is treason to the Iraqi people, the Iraqi territory and its security. We called for and are still calling for the security, safety and liberation of Iraq and its people. This is our goal and anything which violates this is completely forbidden.”
Cont’d (click below or on “comments”)
An Al-Alam Television correspondent questions Al-Sadr’s statement expecting setting up of an alliance or union for the liberation of Iraq. The second part of the question says that there are moves for the appointment of a prime minister who is not from the Islamic trend.
Al-Sadr responds: “As for the first question, I hope that all the Iraqi people participate in this alliance which is an alliance for the liberation of Iraq and for getting Iraq away from the claws of the invaders. I am ready to cooperate absolutely with any party which wants to liberate Iraq and rid it of the occupier and I agree to cooperate and ally myself with it. Perhaps not everybody agrees with this thinking; however, I am ready (to cooperate with) any party which agrees with me on that project. As for the prime minister, I am not the one who appoints him. He is appointed by the alliances and Iraqi people. The one among people who serves the Iraqi people in the eyes of the latter will be, God willing, the one who will get that seat to serve the people through it.”
In response to a question on allegations by the prime minister against other parties, Al-Sadr says: “These are political wranglings which must be avoided by all. I hope that nobody will attack verbally or through the media any other side, either the alliance or others, whether the alliance attacks somebody else or somebody attacks the alliance, this is the same thing. All the parties are Iraqis and can be the servants of the Iraqi people. The effective thing which can be said is: When we see that a person or entity implements the Islamic, Iraqi and patriotic concepts, then it is the person or entity that serves the Iraqi people (?otherwise) he does not serve the Iraqi people.”
A correspondent asks: What can you tell us about Saudi Arabia interfering in the Iraqi elections?
Al-Sadr says: “Interferences are from many sources and not just from Saudi Arabia. Perhaps some interferences are positive and others are negative. The main intervention which we do not want is rejected and is forbidden is the American intervention in the Iraqi territory. Yes, we approve the interference of Muslim and Arab brothers in the interest of the Iraqi people. We reject (the interference) in which there is foreign agenda and interests which do not serve the Iraqi people. From here, I say that I reject all types of sectarian escalation taking place in Iraq and outside it. There is a sectarian tendency in general in the Middle East, between the Shi’is and the Sunnis that must end as soon as possible as it is not at all in the interest of Iraq, Islam, Arabs or others.”
Responding to a question on the possible return of Ba’thists, Al-Sadr says: “Do you mean that they will return through the elections. Do you mean their return to the government or their entering the elections? If there is a new government, then the Ba’thists will not get in. Look my dear, there is one thing only out of two options. Either, what happened must happen – and I agree on it – the removal of Ba’thists and harmful people from the political process is a necessary thing and I mean either the Ba’thists or others. The second option and solution is to accept that they enter the elections – and I am certain – that the Iraqi people will not vote for them. If this happens, then the Ba’thists will not blame you for removing them. In this case, my dear, they will have entered the elections and nobody will have voted for them or given them any value.”
Questioned on attempts by Ba’thists to return to political arena and reports on Al-Sadr’s role in uniting all lists in one national coalition, he says: “First, you should not have mentioned some national blocs with the exclusion of others. All blocs may be national. All blocs may be Iraqi. All blocs may want to serve the Iraqi people, but in the way it can do this.
“Yes, I define certain bodies like terrorists, militias, Ba’thists and so forth that do not want to serve the Iraqi people. This is 100 per cent yes. But other parties, blocs and alliances may want to serve the Iraqi people. We are not sinless and they are not sinless. Good! If they not sinless, what will happen then? They try to serve, but they cannot. There may be something wrong with the application, the mechanisms and the lack of application or coordination. All try to serve Iraq and the Iraqi people. But there is something wrong with the mechanisms and the application.
“Yes, if the blocs are united and cooperate among themselves, they could serve the Iraqi people. A few days ago someone asked me, saying: I am in parliament and I want to serve the Iraqi people and want to have a resolution endorsed in the Iraqi parliament. How can I have this resolution passed? In case each one has a different opinion and we cannot (agree) and we remain a minority in parliament, this resolution will never be endorsed. Consequently, the parliament may water down the resolutions that are in favour of the Iraqi people.
“We hope this parliamentary grouping will coordinate its activity among (various parties). (Words Indistinct) If they cooperate, all may be nationalists and all may be servants of the Iraqi people, either the two alliances that you mentioned or others.”
Asked about Iyad Allawi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Al-Sadr says: “Only God knows about it. God is the knower of the unseen things. I do not know the unseen things. I do not know what they discussed. But God willing this would be for the good of Iraq. I am one of the people who wished to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There is no problem in this. But these visits, as I said before, will be in favour of the Iraqi people.
“I told you this is politics. Anything can happen in political relations, the possible and the impossible.”
Responding to a question on the impact of Saudi and Gulf funding of some Iraqi parties on election results in favor of parties loyal to Saudi Arabia, Al-Sadr remarks: “I do not know whether it (the money) will be in favour of or not. The money is sometimes spent in favour of the Iraqi people. In this case, there is no objection. But sometimes it is spent in favour of the Iraqi people’s enemy. Certainly this is unacceptable.”
Al-Sadr is asked about spending this money for bodies antagonistic to the Iraqi people, to which he remarks: “I do not engage in political wrangling. It may be in favour of the Iraqi people. I hope it (the money) will be in favour of the Iraqi people. But I do not know whether this is really the case or not. I do not know the unseen things.”
With regard to a security conference in Israel that hinted that any future Iraqi government will be anti-Israeli, he says: “This is necessary and certain. We reject any Iraqi government that will benefit and support Israel. We will be against it. We hope it will be against (Israel).”
Al-Sadr is asked about his willingness to visit Saudi Arabia and whether the visit will be for pilgrimage or meeting Saudi officials, he says: “Both are okay. It is good to combine both.”
On the topics he may discuss during such a visit, he responds: “It will be in favour of Iraqi people and the Muslim Shi’i-Sunni unity. I have anything more than this.”
Questioned whether the Al-Sadr movement will support Nuri al-Maliki for the post of prime minister, Al-Sadr says: “I do not intervene in certain issues. There is a political body of Al-Sadr movement. You can ask the political body as it can decide. I prefer not to talk about this.”
(Description of Source: Tehran Al-Alam Television in Arabic — 24-hour Arabic news channel, targetting a pan-Arab audience, of Iranian state-run television, officially controlled by the office of the supreme leader)