Muqtada Al-Sadr Leaves Iraqi Politics ... to Iran

Article excerpt

QUIETLY, AN EARTH QUAKE which will change Iraq, and the en tire Mid dle East, took place in the eve ning of Feb ru ary 15, 2014. The bal ance of power be tween Arabs and Per sians within the Shi'ite world now seems set to shiftde ci sively in fa vor of Iran and the Khomeinist doc trine of Is lamic Rev o lu tion which rec og nizes no na tions and no lo cal in ter ests.

Muqtada al-Sadr (b.1973) issued a statement that he had quit politics and that no political coali- tion could claim to represent him or the Sadr fam- ily and creed: "No one has the right to represent Sadrists or speak on their behalf whether inside or outside the count ry. I announce my noninter- ference in politics, and from now there is no coali- tion that represents us and no position inside our out side move ment or par lia ment."

Ex plain ing his de ci sion, Sadr's statement highlighted the endemic corruption in Iraqi poli- tics. "Starting from all the corruption that had oc- curred and could possibly take place from our po- litical office inside and outside Iraq, and the need to end the suffering of the Iraqi people," the state- ment explained. The statement stressed the im- per a tive to pro tect the Sadr "fam ily's rep u ta tion" from being tarnished. Under the current circum- stances of Iraqi politics, there is no substitute for the self-imposed removal of the entire Sadr family from the political sphere.

Muqtada al-Sadr's decision came on the eve of Iraq's next round of parl iament ary elect ions, now scheduled for April 30, 2014. While the re- election by the new Parliament of Nuri al-Maliki as Iraq's Prime Mini st er is a foregone conclusion, the character of the new Government and the pol- ity of Iraq is far from clear. Rhetoric to the contrary not with stand ing, Maliki's objective is to consoli- date a Shi'ite coalition which would further antag- onize the Sunni Arabs and Kurds, and would better in te grate Shi'ite-dom i nated Iraq into the Iranian sphere of influence.

In contrast, the Shi'ite Sadrists have a history of Iraqi nat ionali sm which led them to clashes with the Shi'ite es tab lish ment of both Najaf and Qom. For example, Sadr decided in April 2004 to pro vide mil i tary and fi nan cial as sis tance to the Sunni Islamist anti-US in ti fa da in Falluja and Ramadi. Because of the Iraqi patriotic character of the fighting, Sadr justified his decision, the Sunni fight ers de served all pos si ble help ir re spec tive of the Shi'ite-Sunni dispute.

Un til re cently, Sadr sought to include in his party Sunnis from the tribal-tradit ional and con- ser va tive power es tab lish ment. This in tent pet ri- fied the Maliki camp which is consolidating power on the basis of sec tari an rifts. The Maliki camp determined that it would derail Sadr's effort at all cost. And so, on February 14, 2014, Hamza al- Shammari, a leader of the Sunni Shammar nation - the most important supra-tribal nation in all of al-Jazira and a candidate in the elections from the Sadrist party - was assassinated along with a dozen fam ily members and supporters. The as- sassination was attributed to members of the Iraqi secur ity forces acti ng as death squads. In the Sunni tribal areas the message is clear: stay away from the elections and Baghdad power politics.

Maliki was quick to prom ise that the security forces would do their utmost to ensure that the elec tions were held smoothly. However, Maliki also noted that, given the escal ati ng viol ence, "voti ng may not happen in many parts of the country"; that is in the predominantly Sunni areas.

Al though Sadr was con tem plat ing with drawal from pol i tics for sev eral weeks, the as sas si na tion of his friend Shammari must have provided an im- pet us for Muqtada al-Sadr to get out quickly.

The significance of the withdrawal of the Sadr family-creed from Iraqi - that is, Arab Shi'ite - poli t ics lies in its dist inct ion compared to the other two dominant families-creeds in Iraqi Shi'ite pol i tics: the al-Hakim and the al-Khoi. …