Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Doings of Muqtada al-Sadr

Sarah Price and Nizar Latif report on Muqtada al-Sadr's doings:
Taking advantage of Iraq's instability and the rapidly decreasing faith in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Moqtada al-Sadr is working to transform his image and raise himself in Iraqis' eyes as a political and spiritual leader.
Contradicting his history of violent sectarianism, the Shiite cleric is trying to present himself as the uniter of all Iraqis at a time of civil strife, and as the defender of Iraqi rights.
When fighting and protests erupted in recent months in Sunni al-Anbar province, he called on all Iraqis to live peacefully with each other – extending the pleas beyond just Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish Iraqis, to also include Christians and Jews, to whom he pleaded in a video, asking Jews to “come back and help rebuild their homeland.”
Last year, Sadr began to approach Iraq's poorest citizens, making efforts to feed and take care of them, and called on all Iraqis to do the same. But many see this tactic as the most direct way to recruit them and gain their loyalty...
These strategies are politically directed, but not for Sadr himself. He wants to have his party, the Sadr list, which already boasts five ministers and 40 MPs, well represented in parliament – and possibly the prime minister's seat – after this spring's elections. He is exempt from political office himself, as he is a religious leader, but he can still have a great deal of influence on Iraqi politics with his list dominating parliamentary seats.
I don't agree with some of the tone of this article.  Muqtada al-Sadr has always deployed the rhetoric of Iraqi unity and offered material support to the poor.  If he is still seen as solely as Shi'ite leader, as the article implies later, that suggests his image isn't changing.  I'd also point out that this year's elections in Iraq are local, and that parliamentary elections are not due until sometime in 2014, though he undoubtedly hopes his candidates will shine in both.  Still, if he or his preferred candidate does become a plausible alternative to al-Maliki and makes inroads to Sunni leaders, then that could be a significant development in Iraqi politics.



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