Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sarkhi and Sistani

IWPR reports that the past few months have seen clashes between agents and followers of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and a former student of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr named Mahmud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi:
"The trouble began on February 17, when a recently-opened office of Shia cleric Mahmoud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi was set on fire. The office was located in a part of Dhi Kar dominated by followers of the country’s most revered Shia scholar, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. "The violence has escalated since them, with attacks on individuals as well as buildings. "In the most recent incident, a car belonging to Sheikh Ahmed al-Ansari, Sistani’s envoy in the southern Maysan province, was targeted by a bomb last week. On April 3, an explosive device was planted outside the house of Sistani representative Sheikh Hasan al-Khamasi in Hilla, 100 kilometres south of Baghdad. "Other figures close to Sistani have been attacked in Baghdad, Karbala, Muthanna, Babil, Qadisiyya, Najaf, Dhi Qar and Basra. "Meanwhile, Sarkhi’s offices in Karbala, Najaf, Qadisiyya, and Basra have been bombed, and other centres in Maysan, Dhi Qar, Babil and Muthanna set on fire."
Al-Sarkhi is a theologically fringe figure who claims to be in direct contact with the Hidden Imam, the apparent basis for his insistence that he is a higher authority than Sistani. Some years ago, American officials foresaw him as a possible leader for hardline Sadrists who did not want to fight their battles politically. Since then he has displayed some capacity for violence, but has always been believed to have a limited following. One of al-Sarkhi's representative has accused Sistani followers of "rabble-rousing" against Sarkhi, which is certainly plauible, though any number of factions could have burned that office. Al-Sarkhi is also trying to play the Iraqi nationalist card against the foreign-born Sistani, something Muqtada Sadr himself tried in the aftermath of the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.



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