The man who won the war in Iraq

After Moqtada al-Sadr’s recent meeting with Ayad Allawi — a top contender for the prime minister post in Iraq — Babak Dehghanpisheh considers Sadr’s current position as a kingmaker in Iraqi politics and his larger ambitions.

Sadr can, rightfully, claim that his movement is one of the few on the Iraqi political scene that’s homegrown. Compare this to the Sadrists’ top rivals in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). For years, they’ve tried to fight the image that they were brought in on American tanks and are beholden to both Washington and Tehran, even changing their name because the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq sounded too Iranian. They tried appropriating the image of Iraq’s most senior cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, to woo more supporters (there are still posters up around Baghdad showing the late ISCI leaders Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Hakim and Abdul Aziz Hakim beside Sistani). Nothing worked. ISCI got wiped out at the polls in March and also had a pretty dismal showing during provincial elections last year.

The Sadrists, by contrast, aren’t going anywhere — which puts Washington, among others, in a bind. Sadr’s supporters are more than just a political party. The cleric is clearly following the Hezbollah model, creating a populist political movement backed by a battle-hardened militia. The language Sadr uses when discussing the U.S. presence in Iraq — resistance, occupation, martyrdom — could easily have been taken from a speech by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. All this has discouraged U.S. officials from holding talks with Sadr — something they’ve never done since 2003. It’s not exactly like Sadr has gone out of his way to open up a dialogue, either. In fact, Sadr and many of his top aides have made it clear that the Mahdi Army won’t disarm as long as there are American troops on Iraqi soil.
Sadr’s ambitions don’t cover Iraq’s domestic agenda alone. His high-profile trips to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere indicate that he wants to be seen as a prominent regional player. He would like to promote his Mahdi Army as a member of the so-called “axis of resistance” made up by Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which have made their names by confronting the United States and Israel.

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3 thoughts on “The man who won the war in Iraq

  1. scott

    Alex Cockburn at Counterpunch has a book on Sadr and considers him to be the real deal. It’s ironic that the US must have known that the Shia would be empowered by our invasion and “democratic” agenda. Sadr was always skeptical of Iran, while we through our lot in with Chalabi who had extensive ties to Iran.

    That’s the problem with sophists and sophism. You get too accustomed to expecting everyone to say what you want to hear. That makes you vulnerable to being played for a sucker. This same dynamic allowed even earnest people to buy into the thin sophistic case for invading Iraq. (there were enough doubts, an earnest admin. would have sought these dissenting voices out, but instead these voices were suppressed and ignored–WARNING WARNING WARNINGS went unheeded)

    Sadr had his own agenda though we did have a chance to work with him early on. We pushed him aside and tried to kill him with bombs. He’s not “our” boy, but Sadr might be Iraq’s best hope.

  2. BARB

    WON THE WAR?????????

    How the US Erase Women’s Rights in Iraq

    By Ghali Hassan

    Global Research, October 7, 2005

    Prior to the arrival of U.S. forces, Iraqi women were free to go wherever they wish and wear whatever they like. The 1970 Iraqi constitution, gave Iraqi women equity and liberty unmatched in the Muslim World. Since the U.S. invasion, Iraqi women’s rights have fallen to the lowest level in Iraq’s history. Under the new U.S.-crafted constitution, which will be put to referendum on the 15 October while the bloodbath mounts each day, women’s rights will be oppressed and the role of women in Iraqi society will be curtailed and relegated to the caring for “children and the elderly”.

    Immediately after the invasion, the U.S. embarked on cultivating friendships with religious groups and clerics. The aim was the complete destruction of nationalist movements, including women’s rights movements, and replacing them with expatriate religious fanatics and criminals piggybacked from Iran, the U.S. and Britain. In the mean time the U.S. moved to liquidate any Iraqi opposition or dissent to the Occupation.

    The creation of paramilitary death squads – from the SCIRI and Al- Da’wa militias – tied to the current puppet government and Iran have been terrorizing Iraq’s secular communities and assassinating large number of prominent Iraqi politicians and professionals (see Robert Dreyfuss – Death Squads and Diplomacy). By using one group against the other, the US is dancing to the ongoing violence and the prospect of civil strife, while its corporations are siphoning off Iraqi resources and assets.

    During his stint in Baghdad as the U.S. Proconsul, L. Paul Bremer often appeared with pro-Occupation women groups to foster the myth that the U.S is “liberating Muslim women”, while at the same time signing laws that were detrimental to women’s rights. Like George Bush and Tony Blair, Paul Bremer is no feminist, but he used feminism’s rhetoric to enforce Western imperialism. “Whether in the hands of patriarchal men or feminists, the idea of feminism essentially functioned to morally justify the attack[s] on native societies and to support the notion of comprehensive superiority of Europe [and America]”, wrote Leila Ahmad, professor of women’s studies and an expert on gender at Harvard University. Hence, feminism serves as the “handmaid of colonialism”, added Ahmed.

    Since March 2003, Iraqi women have been brutally attacked, kidnapped and intimidated from participating in Iraqi society. The generation-old equality and liberty laws have been, replaced by Middle Ages laws that strip women of their rights and put them in the same oppressive life as women in Afghanistan, the nation which the U.S. invaded to “liberate” its oppressed women. The 1970 Iraqi constitution is not only the most progressive constitution in the Muslim World, but also the most equal. Iraqis were mentioned only as “citizens”, and Iraqi women’s rights were specifically protected.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    I wonder when the Israeli threats against Iraq and al Sadr will begin. Clearly two Hezbollahs on the doorstep are a bigger danger to Israel’s free pass in the Middle East than the phantom Iranian nuclear program.
    I suppose the US charade about removing the last ‘combat brigade’ from Iraq has something to do with Jerusalem’s wishes. How many assassination teams and drone squadrons are still to remain based there?

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