Sunday, August 10, 2003

Who Are the Sadriyun?

The Middle East Intelligence Bulletin has published the first solid, authoritative study of the Sadriyun I've seen since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Its worth reading in full, and delves into the movement's origins under the Ba'ath and subsequent emergence as the leading anti-American political force during the occupation.

According to the piece, written by Mahan Abedin, the movement's strength is in urban Shi'ite tribesmen, particularly in Sadr City (East Baghdad), and it is tribal connections which spread its influence to other areas. They are not taken ideologically seriously by the mainstream clerics and Najaf and Karbala. I also noticed they've been making a lot of ideological compromises in their quest for power, such as working with Iran (they were originally anti-Iranian). There was also the suggestion that Muqtada Sadr is mostly a figurehead, and that with no one clearly holding the reins, the U.S. might attempt a divide and conquer strategy among their followers.

I still think Muqtada Sadr does not pose a serious threat to the coalition occupation. His views are too extreme for most people to follow. However, he might serve the same function Eugene McCarthy served in the 1968 Democratic primaries in highlighting and consolidating a base of discontent that "the next anti-occupation leader" can step into. Hence, I would say the coalition shouldn't waste time trying to marginalize Sadr, and instead focus on rebuilding the country to ensure that such a new leader doesn't emerge.


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