Saturday, April 03, 2010

Muqtada al-Sadr's Initiative - Plus Updates

Muqtada al-Sadr (left) the Shia cleric has been especially hostile to the Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki ever since the Iraqi Government took military action to overcome much of the influence of his Mahdi Army from March 2008.

The Shia cleric also has little love for Malaki's main rival in the recent Iraqi Election - Allawi. For Allawi leads a secular grouping which has attracted wide Sunni support

Yet al-Sadr is always willing to take initiatives in Iraq to advance his own corner. The 39 seats his group obtained in the election gives him a bargaining chip he is using to the full.

Over yesterday and today Al-Sadr is running an unofficial referendum from 42 centres in Shia territory to determine who his group of 39 should support for the position of Prime Minister. All Iraqi's around the centres can vote (as below) They can choose from amongst 5 candidates or write in any other choice.

A further advantage of an unofficial referendum is that it has no international observers or official checks to look out for fraud.

Here are the five candidates on al-Sadr's ballot papers. All are Shia and none are Kurds -

1. Maliki the existing Prime Minister whose State of the Law Coalition won 89 seats.

2. Allawi appointed interim Prime Minister May 2004. This time, his list the Iraqi National Movement won 91 seats. But there are legal moves to ban six of those elected.

3. al-Jaafari Prime Minister April 2005 until May 2006. He is Chairman of the Iraqi National Alliance who took 70 seats. Yet his National Reform Trend itself only gained one seat - his own. Muqtada's Group of 39 are also part of this Alliance. al-Jaafari was expelled from the Dawa Party in 2008 for setting up his current Party.

4. Jaafar al-Sadr of the Dawa Party ran on Maliki's ticket with the State of the Law Coalition . He is the son of Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr, a leading Ayatollah executed by Saddam Hussain who was also the father-in-law of Muqtada al-Sadr.

5. Adil Abdul-Mahdi Vice-President of Iraq and with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq who are on the list of the National Iraqi Alliance.

75 seats are held by groups outside those mentioned above.

See Patrick Cockburn on this issue in the Independent. He is the author of "Muqtada Al-Sadr and The Fall Of Iraq" (Faber and Faber, 2008).

UPDATE 5 APRIL - see how Allawi is between a rock and a hard place.

UPDATE 7 APRIL - Jaafar al-Sadr (number 3 above and photo) is reported to have come top in Al-Sadr's unofficial referendum with 24% of the votes. It must have been close because there were 5 candidates, except that write-ins were also allowed.


calgacus said...

Hi Harry,

I think Al Sadr could have reasons for disliking Allawi other than Allawi being secular - Allawi was pretty much the Bush administration's preferred candidate, began the 'Terror in the Hands of Justice' TV show in which people who had been tortured by the US-trained 'Police Commandos' confessed to whatever they'd been told to confess to before having them executed - and some diplomats say he summarily shot suspected insurgents in front of them.

I suspect Sadr he may have been painted as a lot worse than he actually is due to his opposition to the presence of foriegn troops in Iraq and to the US backed oil law.

He does seem to have tried to prevent sectarian killings - and many of the worst examples have been by groups who split from or were expelled from his organisation.


Harry Barnes said...

Duncan : Perhaps both Allawi and Al Sadr have pasts which accuse them. Our current judgements of them will rather depend upon how far they use their positions to aid democracy, peace and progress. Even if they only do so only to advance their own political bases. Not all that much different perhaps from Paisley and McGuinness in Northern Ireland when they became known as Chuckle Brothers. You don't have to be in either camp to appreciate this. It was why looking at Northern Ireland I helped set up New Dialogue, and looking at Iraq pushed for Labour Friends of Iraq.

JG said...

Not all that much different perhaps from Paisley and McGuinness in Northern Ireland when they became known as Chuckle Brothers

Yes. Nobody would ever have guessed that would happen. I never quite got used to it, welcome as it was.


I read Paddy Devlin's autobiography recently and felt his analysis of the situation in the North was spot on. What a pity truly non-sectarian politicians like him were marginalised as the extremists on both sides played to their galleries for their own selfish ends.

Harry Barnes said...

JG : I only remember meeting Paddy Devlin twice. Both were meetings about the Peace Train. The first was held in Belfast and the second was in Dublin - in a hotel on a road leading down to the Dail. I admired his work and will have to read his autobiography.

I used to meet Paisley all the time as the DUP MPs had a room on the same corridor as my own in the Commons. He normally behaved like a Chuckle brother once he was out of the reach of officialdom and TV coverage.

I only met McGuinness once at a crowded meal around tables in a huge square. It must have been in the Peace Talks era. He was a distance from me and only later said "Hello Harry" in passing. I once had an appointment to see him in the Commons after he he came out of a meeting which he was having at 10 Downing Street. But he could not make it in the end and sent Gerry Adams as his deputy.

I have used the Gerry Adams - Al Sadr analogy before -

Like your YouTube item on Liam Clancy.

JG said...

Harry: I'm too young to remember Paddy Devlin but I do admire him. I would highly recommend his autobiography, Straight Left.

He brings Belfast to life and his own political journey is interesting and admirable.

As for Sadr. I saw an interview with him recently and he wasn't nearly as kookie as I'd expected. I think the media have portrayed him as a buffoon, which I'm not convinced is accurate.

Harry Barnes said...

JG : I think that my analogy between Gerry Adams and Al Sadr is appropriate. Whilst rejecting their paramilitary pasts, neither should be underestimated.

calgacus said...

You have a point there Harry