MOQTADA SADR, THE CHAMPION OF LOSING OCCASIONS

By Hasan Hashemian*

TEHRAN 17 Apr. (IPS) While fighting continue in Iraq between the American and Coalition forces in both north and south of Baghdad with Sunni and Shi’a militants and Iranian ended their aborted mediation, a senior Iranian journalist says that Moqtada al-Sadr, the young, turbulent cleric who has reached fame thanks to the free political atmosphere in Iraq prevailing after the fall of Saddam Hussein has lost all opportunities and "soon, no one would hear of him".

Un-identified Iranian diplomatic sources said in Tehran that the mission Iran had send to Iraq to restore calm and peace had come back without meeting Mr. Sadr, who is hiding in the holy city of Najaf, surrounded by American forces that have order to arrest him.

During his two days stay in Iraq, the delegation, led by Mr. Hussein Sadeqi, the General Director of the Persian Gulf and Arab Affairs at the Foreign Affairs Ministry had met with senior British and American diplomats in Baghdad as well as with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the highest Shi’a authority in Iraq, the source confirmed.

However, the Iranian mission was marred after unknown Iraqi gunmen shot dead on Thursday Mr. Khalil Na’imi, the Cultural and Press attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad.

"One has to accept the fact that the political atmosphere that prevailed in Iraq after the fall of the dictator Saddam Hussein was unprecedented concerning freedom of political and social activities and the expression. These rights were also open to Moqtada and his followers. But, on the very concepts learned under Saddam, they used these freedoms and rights to their own benefit, raising against freedom, they created their own army with the help of some neighbouring powers, cleansed schools and offices under their control from unveiled women and experienced cadre, becoming part of the Iraqi chaos at a time that the country needed peace and security", noted Mr. Hasan Hashemian, an independent journalist in Tehran.

Bellow are large excerpts from his article published by the Germany-based "Iran-emrooz" website newspaper on 17 April 2004.

"If Moqtada Sadr and his followers would have been a bit more wise and intelligent, they would profit a lot from the past days events, at a time that they had been able to focus on themselves the attention of both the public opinion and the Coalition forces, increasing their weight in the future Iraqi government. However, its seem that this young political group lacks any kind of maturity, losing the support of the very people who were provoking them. It is therefore no surprise to see that many pundits of Arab affairs have reached the conclusion that the date of the use of this group is limited to a certain period that is also coming to an end".

After reminding that Moqtada, during his life under the rule of Saddam had "no political activities but to be the editor of Al Hoda weekly, using the influence of his father, a publication that with some 500 copies, had no influence, even among the Shi’a, refraining from criticising the dictator", Mr. Hashemian observes that the young cleric emerges "overnight" as a political leader after 9 April that marks the fall of Saddam Hussein, "with the particularity of criticising and opposing everyone, acting more as a nuisance power, having nothing constructive".

According to Mr. Hashemian, Moqtada’s followers are mostly young, illiterate fellows from poor villages or Baghdad who were either students of his father or enrolled in religious schools in Iran, "other Sunnis who changed side and traditional clothes for aba and ammameh (Shi’a clerics robe and turban), growing beards in joining Moqtada. Their first violent act was to assassinate Hojjatoleslam Abdol Majid al-Kho’i, a young intellectual Iraqi cleric in the holly shrine (in Najaf) of the first Imam of the Shi’a (Ali) and the first Iraqi group they targeted was the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SAIRI) led by (Hojjatoleslam Abdol Aziz) Hakim, (a member of the Americna-installed Iraqi Provisory Government who is the younger brother of the late Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, also assassinated in Najaf last year, probably at the hands of Moqtada and his group), accused of being Iranian proxy.

"The number of personalities and groups under Moqtada’s fire grew to include the whole of the IPG, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sisitani accused of leniency and silence, the Iraqi Communist Party, the leaders of the two main Kurdish organisations, Adnan Pachachi etc…. Now, everyone in Iraq who wants peace, order and security and reconstruct their war-ravaged nation realises that Moqtada fights for himself and his group, respecting no one, suppressing everyone tanks to violence".

"One has to accept the fact that what took place in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in the fields of freedom of expression, political parties and unions was unprecedented in the history of Iraq. These rights were also for Moqtada and his group, but from what they had learned under Saddam, they considered these freedoms as a theatre to show their force while considering the others as weak. The result is that what they id and do is in fact an activity against freedom. With a lot noise and propaganda,, they created their own army, expelled from the administration and schools under their control unveiled women and experienced cadre and at a time that Iraq needed peace and security above all, they became an integral part of insecurity and chaos".

"Now many clever Shi’ates have realised that those who encourages Moqtada and his gang to such operations have no other aim that of weakening the power of the Shi’a and their place in the future Iraqi government. People like Mazhar Dlimi supported by Syria describe the stubborn Moqtada as a hero of the Arab umma (nation) and the Algezira Television (of Qatar) called him imam Moqtada Sadr".

"In such circumstances and atmosphere, not only Moqtada Sadr, because of his disgruntled attitude and incompetence, not only has lost all occasions of participating in the future of Iraq, but also by extending the scope of his turbulent activities to other Shi’a forces, forces them into unconsidered actions, thus weakening the position of the Shi’as in Iraq and even pushes them to the sidelines, explaining the reason why the majority of non Shi’a circles have placed Moqtada in the centre of their propaganda, encouraging him to continue his foolishnesses", Mr. Hashemian concluded. ENDS IRAQ MOQTADA 17404

Editor's note: Mr. Hasan Hashemian is an independent Iranian journalist and analyst of Arab affairs in Tehran.

Excerpts of the above article, published by Iran Emrooz website (www.iran-emrooz.de) on 17 April 22004 was translated by Iran Press Service that also made the editing, including highlights.