Muqtada Al Sadr was in Tehran

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When the Golden Mosque of Samarra was blown up several weeks ago, Muqtada Al Sadr gave a blustering interview  — from Lebanon. What we were not told at the time was that Al Sadr also went to Tehran. The question is: Why?

Al Sadr controls a Iranian—style militia in Baghad. When they took over for some time in Sadr City, they instituted Shari'a rule. There have been rumors that Sadr receives arms and money from Iran. Al Sadr is in a very good  position to make trouble in Baghdad, both for the painfully emerging government there and also for the United States. If the US mounts a strike against Iran's nuclear program, look for Al Sadr to foment civil war in Iraq.

What's in it for him? Al Sadr could become the Ahmadinejad of Iraq. So far, the Shiite leadership under Ayatollah Sistani has resisted Al Sadr's violent tendencies. But there is a power struggle under way among the Shiite majority in Iraq. Sistani is old, and could fade from the scene. And the Shiites have been viciously attacked by the Sunnis for decades, rising to a climax with the attack on the Golden Mosque. Al Sadr could try to whip up Shiite hatred of the Sunnis, both the Baath remnant and Zarqawi.

There are two key political prizes in Iraq today. One is the power ministries — Defense and Interior (the police and domestic intelligence). The religious parties want control of the power ministries, but the US has been insisting that they be controlled by secular ministers. That is one major debate going on right now. The second prize is who becomes the Prime Minister. That decision hangs on just one Parliamentary vote.

The United States is betting on a coherent government coming out of the political debate, with control over the major levers of power. Others are against that — Tehran and its puppet Al Sadr.

Like Turkey and Pakistan, a democratic Iraq will have to build a military and police establishment to back up the elected government. But to do so, they will likely have to fight Muqtada Al Sadr.

Things look pretty desperate, but we should remember that the United States has a long history of success in propping up favorable regimes over the past half century. Just after World War Two Greece had a civil war. The pro—American side one. Much the same happened in Iran, at least before Jimmy Carter decided to undermine the Shah — a decision that led to the Iran—Iraq war, and an estimated 200,000 dead victims of the Khomeini regime. The US also won the battle in Latin America, and in Asia we at least contained Communist imperialism.

So we have a very strong historical track record. The battle in Iraq can be won. 

James Lewis   3 19 06

When the Golden Mosque of Samarra was blown up several weeks ago, Muqtada Al Sadr gave a blustering interview  — from Lebanon. What we were not told at the time was that Al Sadr also went to Tehran. The question is: Why?

Al Sadr controls a Iranian—style militia in Baghad. When they took over for some time in Sadr City, they instituted Shari'a rule. There have been rumors that Sadr receives arms and money from Iran. Al Sadr is in a very good  position to make trouble in Baghdad, both for the painfully emerging government there and also for the United States. If the US mounts a strike against Iran's nuclear program, look for Al Sadr to foment civil war in Iraq.

What's in it for him? Al Sadr could become the Ahmadinejad of Iraq. So far, the Shiite leadership under Ayatollah Sistani has resisted Al Sadr's violent tendencies. But there is a power struggle under way among the Shiite majority in Iraq. Sistani is old, and could fade from the scene. And the Shiites have been viciously attacked by the Sunnis for decades, rising to a climax with the attack on the Golden Mosque. Al Sadr could try to whip up Shiite hatred of the Sunnis, both the Baath remnant and Zarqawi.

There are two key political prizes in Iraq today. One is the power ministries — Defense and Interior (the police and domestic intelligence). The religious parties want control of the power ministries, but the US has been insisting that they be controlled by secular ministers. That is one major debate going on right now. The second prize is who becomes the Prime Minister. That decision hangs on just one Parliamentary vote.

The United States is betting on a coherent government coming out of the political debate, with control over the major levers of power. Others are against that — Tehran and its puppet Al Sadr.

Like Turkey and Pakistan, a democratic Iraq will have to build a military and police establishment to back up the elected government. But to do so, they will likely have to fight Muqtada Al Sadr.

Things look pretty desperate, but we should remember that the United States has a long history of success in propping up favorable regimes over the past half century. Just after World War Two Greece had a civil war. The pro—American side one. Much the same happened in Iran, at least before Jimmy Carter decided to undermine the Shah — a decision that led to the Iran—Iraq war, and an estimated 200,000 dead victims of the Khomeini regime. The US also won the battle in Latin America, and in Asia we at least contained Communist imperialism.

So we have a very strong historical track record. The battle in Iraq can be won. 

James Lewis   3 19 06