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By Safa Haeri
Posted Monday, June 7, 2004

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Iraqi Muslims make their way to the holy mosque of Imam Ali in Najaf

PARIS, 6 June (IPS) Under God’s skies, clouds are gathering over relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq, as seen from the latest statements by leaders from the two major Shi’a Muslim nations.

“After having supported the tyrant Saddam Hussein until the last minute, the Iranian radio and television is now backing the Ba’thists and the Wahabites”, the Friday imam of Najaf, Shi’a’s holiest place, complained recently, referring to coverage of Iraqi news and reports by the al-Aalam television, the 24 hours Arabic-language service of the Iranian Radio and Television that is under the direct control of the leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.

Addressing thousands of worshipers, Hojjatoleslam Sadreddin Qabanji, the Friday Preacher, described al-Aalam” as a “dirty thing” that presents the fighting between followers of the turbulent cleric Moqtada al Sadr with American forces as “Iraqi Muslim people resistance operations”.

With a staff of more than 50 journalists, cameramen and technicians, “al-Aalam” (The World) is the most viewed, if not the most popular, of all foreign television networks in Iraq, being also the only non-Iraqi television to receive without the need of sophisticated dishes and other costly equipments.

Mr. Qabanji also accused the Iranian clergy of keeping silent over the ongoing events in Iraq, stating that what Moqtada al-Sadr is doing under the name of Islam and the Iraqis has “nothing to do with opposing the American presence in the country”.


After having supported the tyrant Saddam Hussein until the last minute, the Iranian radio and television is now backing the Ba’thists and the Wahabites, the Friday imam of Najaf complained.


“This is the strongest ever criticism delivered by a high-ranking Iraqi cleric against the policy of the Islamic Republic concerning his country”, observed Mr. Sadeq Saba, the BBC’s senior commentator on Iranian affairs.

A senior member of the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SAIRI) led by Hojjatoleslam Abdol Aziz al-Hakim, Mr. Qabanji was in fact expressing the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of most leading Iraqi Shi’a authorities with the policies of the ruling Iranian ayatollahs concerning Iraq, mostly the support they provides to Mr. Sadr and his so-called Jaysh (Army) al-Mahdi.

To the majority of Iraqi moderate clerics, including Grand Ayatollahh Ali Sistani, the highest religious authority in Iraq, Moqtada, the son of an Ayatollah killed by Saddam Hussein and his skirmishes with American forces are nothing but adventurism that harms the position of the Shi’as, as seen from the latest “adaptations” made by Washington in its relations with the Iraqi Shi’a and Sunni forces, creating a “balance” between the two major religious components of the Iraqi society.

Both the Americans and the Iraqi justice are hunting the young Sadr for the alleged murder of Hojjatoleslam Abdol Majid al Kho’i, a moderate cleric assassinated savagely in Najaf days after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In his speech, Mr. Qabanji challenged the Iranian Shi’a clergy, asking them why they remain silent in face of Moqtada Sadr’s fighting the Americans in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala and do not call the reel cleric to order? “What Sadr is doing is a purely personal vendetta and adventurism, having nothing with the American presence in Iraq or fighting the occupation of the country and what the al-Aalam television is doing is only harming our position”, he stated.

Iranian analysts said it is a matter of fact that from the start of Anglo-American attack on Iraq, the Iranian Radio and Television took the side of the now toppled Iraqi dictator, predicting the Americans “another Vietnam”, or a “quagmire they would sink in it”. Pointers at hand, high-ranking officers from the Revolutionary Guards would explain why the Coalition forces would be defeated.

Both the Americans and the Iraqi justice are hunting the young Sadr for the alleged murder of Hojjatoleslam Abdol Majid al Kho’i, a moderate cleric assassinated savagely in Najaf days after the fall of Saddam Hussein


“Iranian Radio and Television repeated to the last minutes al-Sahhaf’s declarations that the Americans had been booted out”, reminded Mr. Alireza Noorizadeh, a veteran Iranian journalist, referring to the then Iraqi Information minister statements in the one hand and the anti-American policies of Iranian regime during the days prior to the fall of Baghdad on the other.

Both the networks and the Iranian Friday preachers in their sermons also portray the Jaysh al Mahdi as an Iraqi Muslim national resistance force that fights American occupiers.

[Mr. Hasan Abedini, the director of al-Aalam denied the charges, stating that the network’s criteria are objectivity and news worthiness of the events]

Eyewitnesses present at the Friday ceremonies in Najaf, where Ali, the Shi’a’s first imam and a cousin of the prophet Mohammad is buried, reported that followers of the young Sadr tried to disturb the sermon and stop Hojjatoleslam Qabanji delivering his speech, but they were opposed by the worshippers.

In one of his last diatribes against the United States and its military intervention in Iraq, Mr. Khameneh'i had described the IPG as “an American puppet council” and called on the Iraqi people to “consolidate, generalise and unify” the resistance against the evil occupation forces.

“This statement is important since SAIRI, which has its real roots in Iran and for decades, had received all kinds of material, financial, logistics, propaganda and military assistances and support from the Iranian ayatollahs is an influent member of the American-installed IPG. It shows that ties between Tehran and the SAIRI are near breaking point”, Mr. Saba added.

Disgraced Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi in April told an Iranian intelligence official that the United States had broken Iran's secret communications code, The New York Times reported(AFP/File/Sabah Arar)

According to a recent Washington Post report, the Bush Administration, in a major policy upheaval, is shifting the minority Sunni Muslims as its major ally against the Shi’a majority and at the same time is re-organising the Iraqi intelligence services to curb Iranian influence and meddling in Iraqi affairs.

The disgrace that has befallen on Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress who until recently was still the darling of the Pentagon and other in the American Administration is part of the same political re-evaluation, analysts says, referring to the raid, ten days ago, on the residence and offices of Mr. Chalabi in Baghdad and the accusations of espionage for Iran, including informing the Iranians that the US intelligence had broke their secret communications codes.

Taking the information seriously, the radical daily Jomhoori Eslami that belong to Mr. Khameneh'i called Saturday on all Iranian “responsible authorities” to “send proper warning signals to Washington” and called on the government to “mobilise all national and popular forces” to resist and defeat the new “evil coup” prepared by the enemies of Islam and the Islamic Revolution.

“The scheme must be taken seriously. The evil occupation forces must be told that the Islamic Republic would never allow them interfering in its domestic affairs and all necessary measures must be taken to dissuade the occupiers from a dangerous game against Iran”, the paper said in an editorial.

“It was clear from the outset that the forces of occupation would, in due time, pour their poison against Iran. The plot was hatched in Fallujah, after the Americans handed over the security of the city to the Ba’thists. Now, they are mobilising the most vicious of the remaining Saddamists to destabilise Iran”, the paper added., referring to the Washington Post’s story. ENDS IRAN IRAQ RELATIONS



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