Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Muqtada al-Sadr Preparing His Supporters for the Dirty Game of Politics

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 29 September 2010 13:14

In an interesting official statement published by the Sadrists, Muqtada al-Sadr tackles the question of a second Maliki premiership head on. The document simulates the format of a “request for a fatwa” and the questioner asks how a second Maliki premiership can be acceptable given the highhandedness of the Maliki government against Sadrists in numerous locations across Iraq (Karbala and Nasiriyya are highlighted).

Sadr’s reply is interesting: He alludes to the “give and take” of politics and cites his father (as he always does in these quasi-fatwas) to the effect that politics is a heartless game. He then goes on to order his followers to support whatever position is taken by the Sadrist politburo!

This could, in other words, be another indication that the Sadrists are preparing to switch allegiance to Maliki, this time probably with Iranian support in order to achieve their basic aim of having a (mostly) unified Shiite front in the government-formation process. It is interesting that the normally pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) have gone quite far out on a limb in an attempt at challenging Maliki. Today, Iraqi media are full of rumours about a reported visit by Sadr himself to Syria, ostensibly to talk to Iraqiyya; so far however only a meeting between the Syrian president and the Iraqiyya leadership is reported. A more realistic scenario would probably have been Sadr talking to ISCI and others in the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) half of the putative all-Shiite National Alliance (NA) that remain sceptical towards Maliki (Sabah al-Saadi of Fadila indicated such scepticism today), but so far nothing of the kind has materialised. In that case, the interesting question is how big the INA defection from the NA will be if Maliki after all emerges as their premier candidate.

15 Responses to “Muqtada al-Sadr Preparing His Supporters for the Dirty Game of Politics”

  1. Thaqalain said


    Are not other parties trying to play the same style of getting to power by broking deals and dumping it overnight! Sooner, you will see Baghdad have one ruler before sunset and by sunrise you will see another ruler taken over.
    This is what we expect in war torn country. But why you choose a title to target Sadr. I hope you should modify the article and provide us with honest views regarding dirty politics.

  2. mostafa said

    Thanks Reidar
    But as far as I know Sabah al-Saadi is no longer in Fadila. He quit the party weeks ago.
    As for ISCI why are they going to Iraqqyia while most of the shiites (at least 140 deputies) are supporting Maliki?

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Thaqalain, it is Muqtada who says politics is not for angels! Please read the bayan.

    Mostafa, there are additional news reports suggesting some kind of Fadila disenchantment with Maliki (they have been blowing hot and cold on him for some weeks now). ISCI are probably still trying to fight for their candidate (Abd al-Mahdi) to win the internal NA contest, although if they continue like this the term “defection” may eventually prove more appropriate.

  4. Reidar,
    This is an interesting situation; with less than a majority the NA may not guarantee its priority, the same as Iraqyia, so what’s the use of the new kutla interpretation?
    ISCI’s position may be understood as a message to Maliki: You cannot win in a hostile parliament so why are you pushing for your candidacy and wasting Abdul Mahdi’s chances when this could lead to Allawi led coalition?

  5. Andrew Turvey said

    Another option that has been mentioned is for Iraqiyya to support Abdul Mahdi as PM, Allawi become President and the Kurds take the parliament speakership.

    Iraqiyya is more likely to supoprt Mahdi than Maliki as he has a smaller power base, so they may think him easier to manipulate.

  6. John said

    Probably they also published something more legible than the handwriting, if you would be so kind as to let us have the url…

  7. Santana said

    Iran has so much at stake that they will do everything and anything to pull ISCI back into the NA fold…cash, threats , intimidation and Marjaiyah will all be used….Hadi Al-Ameri will be the guy Iran uses to get ISCI back into NA and accepting Maliki….the Sadrists did not give in to Daawa that easily…they want 5 ministries, all the JAM criminals released, cash and either MOI or MOD…..and Maliki agreed just to stay PM…There is NO way the U.S or anyone else (besides Iran) that will agree to the Sadrists “Kingmaker” status. The U.S has already started switching horses…from supporting Maliki(thinking he is going to team up with Iraqiya) to Adel now. It’s gonna be interesting…..the Kurds on the other hand are like a bunch of hungry wolves standing on a nearby hill watching the battle and drooling and trying to determine who is bleeding the worst so that they can offer him a bandaid to in return for Kirkuk and 40% of Iraq.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    I don’t see Abd al-Mahdi coming back and winning the NA nomination after this (and any notion of US support would certainly not help in that contest). If he is to become PM, he probably needs to form a kutla with Iraqiyya or simply defect to them. As said earlier, the success would depend on how many ISCI or other NA deputies he could bring with him – not many, I suspect.

  9. I wouldn’t write Abd Al Mahdi out yet. I think the dominant factor in the process is Maliki’s insecurity which is getting to new heights of reaching out to all and anybody and rumours almost exclusively from his camp.

  10. John said

    The legible version of what Moqtada wrote is just below the handwritten version, here:

    Admittedly, a reading of the actual text could conceivably detract a little from the “Moqtada’s dirty politics” theme of this post.

  11. Reidar Visser said

    John, it would be helpful if you could spell out your exact argument and objections please.

    The “actual text” is in fact the handwritten one and it is perfectly legible. I have been unable to detect any discrepancy between it and the typewritten one. Does it not say politics is give and take? Does it not refer to Sadr II portraying politics as heartless? Does it not impose obedience towards the political council of the Sadrists?

  12. John said

    That handwriting is not “perfectly legible”. I for one could not read the handwritten text, and I was surprised that you deliberately lopped off the more-legible one and ignored my request for the more-legible one.

    You have picked and chosen.

    You are perfectly entitled to ignore Moqtada’s remarks about serving the people, relieving in so far as possible the oppressed, and striving for general and particular reconciliation, as meaningless and mere boilerplate. But in the same way one could dismiss your own views of others as “nationalist” or “reasonable” in the same way. Far better to cite your texts in a readable form, and ask what they mean in the context of current Iraqi reality.

  13. Reidar Visser said

    It is quite unusual to find someone who can read Arabic but cannot read a reasonably straightforward handwritten text, so I just didn’t think of that. I generally try to make the jpegs as small as possible and am unsure what you meant with “lopping off” anything, and am generally surprised that you can know what I think (“deliberate”). Obviously if there was a problem in my interpretation most Arabic readers, if not you, would easily be able to point it out on the basis of the handwritten text.

    As for the request for a link, my apologies, I cannot spend the whole day on this blog and when comments get irrelevant they receive less priority, as simple as that. So let’s try to get back to the main point of the discussion concerning the NA dynamics.

  14. John said

    the handwriting is for authenticity, the printed version is so people can read it–“unusual” people I guess.

    Please get back to whatever you consider relevant, god forbid anyone should spend all day on this.

  15. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, about why ISCI has taken such position, personally I think it’s because unlike Sadr’s support base, which remained rock solid, ISCI has lost majority of their support to al-Maliki, he is the main enemy and they will need to challenge him to get their support back, so they will try as much as they can to prevent the INA being part of an al-Maliki government.

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