Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Iraqi Ayatollahs Play It Safe; Moqtada Keeps His Army

Concerning the latest offer by Moqtada al Sadr to give up his militia if so ordered by Ayatollah Sistani, CNN reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded Sunday that the
cleric disband his militia, which waged two uprisings against U.S. troops in 2004, or see his supporters barred from public office.
But al-Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi said al-Sadr has consulted with Iraq's Shiite clerical leadership "and they refused that." He did not provide details of the talks.

Well, he tried. But if "they refused that," I guess our earnest theological student will simply have to persevere.

Juan Cole summed it up on April 8:

the US press went wild for this supposed report that Muqtada al-Sadr said he would dissolve his militia if Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
ordered it. Folks, he always says that when there is a controversy. (He said the same thing in spring, 2004). He says it because he knows it makes him look reasonable to the Shiite public. He says it because he knows that the grand ayatollahs are not going to touch the matter with a ten foot pole. They are not so foolish as to take responsibility for dissolving a militia that they had nothing to do with creating.

If anyone happens to find just a little more detail on this in the Arabic press, please share it!

!!!!!!!!!!Note as of April 11:
Initial reports discussed above now appear to have been misleading, and suggest that Sistani decided to touch the matter after all - coming down, judging from English summaries, gently but fairly clearly on the side of Maliki. This earlier report on the political maneuverings nows seems to have been on the mark. Will Sadr's independence, nasty sectarian record, and blunt support of Iraqi centralization get him ostracized from the political system?

Now, about the democratic principles underlying Maliki's concept of selecting one particular faction out of all those with militias in Iraq and creating the special rule that it alone must give up its militia to remain in politics...Then there's the small practical issue: just what is Moqtada going to do with all those fighters if he is excluded from the political system?

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