Entries in Moqtada al-Sadr (12)
The current political crisis in Iraq is often portrayed as a sectarian conflict between the Shia prime minister on the one hand and the deputy prime minister and vice-president – both Sunnis – on the other.
No one can claim that sectarianism in Iraq does not exist, but a closer look at the intra-sectarian conflict, sometimes just as bloody, can help paint a more nuanced picture.
President Obama’s speech formally declaring that the last 43,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: The troops aren’t being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. They’re leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay.
Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq but had instead spent the past few months trying to extend it. A 2008 security deal between Washington and Baghdad called for all American forces to leave Iraq by the end of the year, but the White House -- anxious about growing Iranian influence and Iraq’s continuing political and security challenges -- publicly and privately tried to sell the Iraqis on a troop extension. As recently as last week, the White House was trying to persuade the Iraqis to allow 2,000-3,000 troops to stay beyond the end of the year.
First, at midday, a truck exploded near a municipal building in Taji, north of the Iraqi capital. As people rushed to help the injured, a second, larger explosion struck. Nearly three dozen were killed, and many more wounded.
In the afternoon at a nearby hospital in the Baghdad neighborhood of Kadhimiya, a macabre scene unfolded, as women cried and shouted over the bodies of their husbands and sons, and the wounded, bloody and covered in dust, sought care. A list of the dead and wounded adorned a wall; the youngest victim was 3 years old.
2015 GMT: A Matter of Intelligence. Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times, drawing from a source in Iran, offers this intriguing addition to the story of the political crisis over President Ahmadinejad's attempted dismissal of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi:
The source, an official in the conservative Islamic Coalition Party, said the President decided to fire Moslehi after being told that both Intelligence Ministry and Revolutionary Guard spies were eavesdropping on [Esfandiar Rahim] Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's in-law and right-hand man, who is mistrusted by hard-liners and right-wing clergy. Many believe Ahmadinejad is positioning Mashaei as his successor after his term ends in 2013.
"Top intelligence commanders of the Revolutionary Guard and Heydar Moslehi bugged the office of Mashaei --- as they must --- and monitored his private and public political behavior," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Mashaei, himself a former Intelligence Ministry official, discovered the electronic surveillance with the help of the ministry's No. 2, Hassan Abdollahian, the source said. Moslehi fired Abdollahian after discovering his role in divulging sensitive information to the Presidential office.
Told of the surveillance and the firing of Mashaei's confidant, Ahmadinejad on April 17 ordered Moslehi to hand in his resignation, appointing Abdollahian to replace him.
UPDATE 1200 GMT: Clarifying the use of "peaceful" in the headline, this is Reuters' report on the speech:
Sadr said occupiers should be resisted "by all means" but added that arms were for "people of weapons only," a comment that seemed to endorse the authority of the army and the police and could calm fears of a return of the [Sadrist militia] Mehdi Army.
Thousands of Iraqis have turned out in the central Iraqi city of Najaf to hear Muqtada al-Sadr's first speech since his return from four years of self-imposed exile.
The Shia Muslim religious leader called the US, Israel and the UK "common enemies" against Iraq in his speech on Saturday , and urged his followers to resist what he called "the occupiers" by all means.
On Wednesday, the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, having succeeded for seven years in evading assassination or capture by US forces and spending much of that time in Iran, returned to Iraq. He did so as the leader of a significant faction in Iraqi politics --- its 40 seats in Parliament are second amongst Shi'a parties, surpassed only by the supporters of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki --- and on the Iraqi streets.
US forces may have tried to remove Sadr from the Iraqi scene, but the politics is now far beyond them, as the cleric tries to build on his position.
Next step? A "very important" speech in Najaf on Saturday.
Najaf, as the epicenter of Shia Islam, carries significant importance for Iran and its overall campaign to expand its sphere of influence in Iraq and the region. The city is home to many Iranian pilgrims and traders eager to profit spiritually and financially from the city's religious and commercial offerings. There is general awareness and acknowledgment among many Iraqis that Iran's influence, albeit a historic reality, does not always translate into mutual benefit for Najafis. Many also acknowledge that Iran will continue to capitalize on its ties to the city in order to foster greater socio-economic dependencies. The extent of its ability to influence the ways of the Marja'iyyah are more limited, particularly during Sistani's tenure, given the clerical establishment's unrivaled theocratic and geographic prominence when compared to its "sister city" Qom.
Ten people died at Aroba Square, near a gold-domed shrine in the capital, where a bomber strolled a little after sunset before he blew himself up.
The day after, no one would know that. Electrical wires dangled, billboards were torn, lights were shattered and windows were broken. But that describes anywhere in Baghdad, a city more neglected than destroyed, living on bitter nostalgia.
The scene was ordinary. And that angered Hassan al-Bahadli on Wednesday.
UPDATE 1730 GMT: So let's check in, after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's day in Tehran, to see if "diversion" is the right word....
Al-Maliki saw the Supreme Leader, who said, "Formation of a government as soon as possible and establishment of full security are among the important needs of Iraq because development and reconstruction of Iraq...can't be achieved without these two [conditions]." He continued, "All politicians and officials in Iraq should focus on formation of a new government as soon as possible," and then had a little dig at Washington, "I wish the almighty God ends America's menace over Iraq as soon as possible ... it will solve the Iraqi nation's problems."
It was more platitudes when al-Maliki saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who put out the sound-bite, "Regional countries and states can manage themselves and the region hand in hand, and by providing for one another's needs they can become each others supporters....Iran completely supports a united, strong and independent Iraq which serves the Iraqi people, Islamic ideals and progress of the region."
But for the most brazen tip-off --- either from al-Maliki or from Iranian state media putting words in his mouth --- that this was primarily a showpiece for the legitimacy of the Iranian Government rather than, in the overblown coverage of this morning, proof of Iran putting together Baghdad's leadership, let's close with the Iraqi Prime Minister's supposed greeting to Ahmadinejad....
""During your visit to Lebanon, the Zionist regime [of Israel] was on high [military] alert, which proved they are really cowards."