Saturday, April 5, 2008

Muqtada out of step in Shi'ite dance

By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times

".......One theory says that Imad Mughniya, the Hezbollah commander who was assassinated in Damascus in February, had been charged by Iran to restructure the Mahdi Army. He had been one of the architects of Hezbollah in 1982 and was asked to do the same to professionalize the Sadrists. While all of this was being done, Muqtada was asked to return to his religious studies so he could rise to the rank of ayatollah and therefore gain a much stronger role in Shi'ite domestics. He would then be authorized to issue religious decrees and answer religious questions related to politics - just like Hakim.

Then suddenly something went wrong, and last week Maliki (who is now equally close to the Iranians) went to war against the Sadrists. Some claim that an under-the-table deal was hammered out in Baghdad in March between the Americans, Maliki and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian leader would let the Americans have their way - and crush the Sadrists - in exchange for softening pressure on the Iranian regime. In return, Ahmadinejad would help them bring better security to Iraq through a variety of methods stemming from Iranian cooperation.

This would please the Americans, Maliki and the Iranians, who in exchange for Muqtada's head would enter a new relationship with the Americans. This might explain why the only people who have been lobbying heavily with Maliki - to stop the war on Muqtada - have been those opposed to Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs, mainly Sunni tribes, ex-prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (who refused sanctuary in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war) and the Sunni speaker of parliament, Mahmud Mashadani.

Other Shi'ite heavyweights in the Arab world, like Hasan Nasrallah of Hezbollah and Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who are both very close to Iran, have been relatively silent over the ordeal. Syria, which is a traditional friend of Iran and has good relations with Muqtada, has also refused to comment. Are all Shi'ites two sides of the same coin, or has this long-held belief been shattered by the war - and mutiny - in Basra? "

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