Muqtada al-Sadr: Iraq Is Being Driven to Ruin

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A woman holds a picture of anti-U.S. Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr as his supporters march on a street in Baghdad's Sadr city 26 May 2011. (Photo: Reuters - Kareem Raheem)

By: Ahmad al-Moussawi

Published Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Sadrist leader tells Al-Akhbar that the US still wields too much influence in the country, Maliki is a threat to democracy, and there is no way of resolving the political crisis.

Baghdad - The Ahrar Bloc affiliated to the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr is one of the biggest players on the Iraqi political stage, with 39 members of parliament and five ministers in the government as part of the Shia Iraqi National Alliance (INA) coalition.

The movement began taking shape as a political current in the 1990s under Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was killed along with his sons Mustafa and Mumal in Najaf in 1999 by agents of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

After the 2003 US invasion in 2003, Muqtada, Sadr’s fourth son, emerged as the movement’s leader, delivering a now-famous speech after Friday prayers at the Koufa mosque in which he declared his opposition to the American presence and announced the formation of the movement’s paramilitary wing, the Mahdi Army.

The Sadrist movement has been engaged in the political process since the first post-invasion parliamentary elections in 2005. Sadr himself moved to Iran last year to complete his theological studies at the seminary of Qom, but continues to follow political development in Iraq from his base there.

In an interview with Al-Akhbar, Sadr accused the US of continuing to meddle in Iraqi affairs, despite the withdrawal of most of its troops from the country, with damaging consequences for Iraqi politics.

“The American occupation of the sacred land of Iraq had a big and negative impact on the land and the people. It took lives and plundered resources, and it continues to do so,” he said. “But perhaps the most important of these negative results is the consolidation of the occupation’s influence over the land that tormented it for years. This influence amounts to imposing military and political control and continuing its unacceptable interference with the political parties.”

Sadr charged that a number of Iraqi institutions remain under US control. “There are still many files which it continues to control, as well as some bases and detention centers, in addition to its intelligence and other influence,” he said.

“This interference will prevent Iraq from being independent and making its own regional and international decisions,” Sadr added. “America wants this in order to increase its hegemony and power internally and externally.”

Sadr was also strongly critical of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, saying his autocratic behavior was endangering the country’s democracy and making a resolution to the long-running political crisis in the country “impossible.”

Sadr concurred with the growing chorus of charges by Iraqi political groups that Maliki monopolizes the decision-making, and warned: “ I’ve said it in the past and will continue to say it. I do not fear for myself personally in this regard, but this behavior will ultimately result in taking Iraq away from the path of democracy and freedom, and even that of clean elections.”

He held out little chance of President Jalal Talabani succeeding in his efforts to broker a deal between Maliki and his opponents to resolve the political crisis. “I do not imagine that he is capable of doing that. If he had been able to resolve the crisis he would not have distanced himself from following up the decisions of the Erbil meeting [held by leaders of some of Iraq’s major political factions in April] ,” he said.

Sadr was also dismissive of the committee set up by the INA ostensibly to tackle the crisis. “I did not take part in this committee’s meetings, and I do not know their details. But resolving the crisis is impossible, because as far some are concerned, resolving it means (submitting to) dictatorship and monopolized decision-making.”

The INA committee was tasked with collating the demands of the various other political blocs and drafting them into a document which has come to be known as the “Reform Paper.” There has been much skepticism about the process, and the Iraqiyya List and other political groups have questioned whether such a paper even exists at all. “Whether it exists or not, it makes no difference to me,” Sadr remarked.

When asked about the criticism levelled by Maliki’s State of Law coalition at the Sadrists over their attitude to disputes over jurisdiction between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region, he replied: “these are all political disputes, and bit by bit they will drag the country to ruin.”

Sadr would not comment on the case of Tareq al-Hashemi, the fugitive vice-president who was recently sentenced to death in absentia by a Baghdad court.

He pronounced himself “relatively” satisfied with the performance of his own group’s legislators in parliament. “Theirs is the best performance, though not all that is required or what we would wish. But they deserve gratitude if we compare them to the other MP’s,” he said. “The intention behind their work must be the service of the people.”

Sadr also denied that his movement was backing the controversial amnesty law that would allow for the release of large numbers in Iraqi jails and has been the subject of fierce controversy in parliament.

Turning to the crisis in Syria, Sadr called for an end to the killing and to foreign intervention in the conflict. “The avoidance of bloodshed is a duty. There is no gain from or reason for conflict with anyone except Israel and America,” he said, adding: “We will not accept any foreign intervention in Syria, and accordingly I have avoided intervening too.”

Regarding Bahrain, however, Sadr had a different message: “The voice of people must rise, and the voice of injustice and oppression must fade. We salute the people in revolt and pray for God to grant them victory.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Dear Muqtada Sadr sir

“We will not accept any foreign intervention in Syria, and accordingly I have avoided intervening too.”

Would you consider russian Intervention as foreign intervention or not? I mean Saddam used russian Weapons to hunt you down like Hafez Al Assad used russian Weapons in the Hama Massacre. You can argue that Russia was behind Saddams Power. A Power that you and your Overlords could not crush without "foreign" Intervention. It`s a funny thing. Double Standards. And now Maliki buy russian Weapons worth billions of Dollars.

What is this "We" in you sentence. Are you a syrian citizen now? It has all to do with sectarianism. Since the situation in Syria and iraq in terms of sectarianism were identical. Even the Ideology of the regimes were identical.

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