Monday, March 31, 2008

Iran the broker ? (with an update) (and a correction)

Kuwaiti paper AlQabas, which has been close to the negotiations-story, says there were three Iraqi members of parliament at the sessions with Moqtada on the weekend, namely Hadi AlAmari who is also secretary general of the Badr Organization (Supreme Council military wing); Ali AlAdeeb, a member of the wing of the Dawa party that is still headed by Maliki; and a third person, Qasem AlSahlani, described as a member of the political bureau of the "Dawa Party-Iraq Organization", which is a wing of the Dawa party that has split from Maliki, and is headed by former Prime Minister Jaafari.* (See the note for a correction of the italicized part)

The McClatchy story that has taken America by storm this morning mentions only the first two, leaving out AlSahlani. And it says the whole purpose of their trip was "to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods Brigades", to persuade Moqtada to "order his followers to stop military operations." And McClatchy quotes a member of the Iraqi List, Osama Nejafi, to the effect that the "Iran was part of the problem and an effective part of the negotiations." The AlQabas story doesn't mention Iranian involvement at all.

So there are two points here: The McClatchy "Iran the broker" story doesn't include AlSahlani of the anti-Maliki Dawa wing, and it quotes the Iraqi List person, AlNejafi, only as acknowledging Iran as "a part" of the problem, and a part of the solution, not as the broker. Those two people have something in common, because they both belong to groups that were signatory to the so-called "12-party understanding" back in January, which included the Sadrists, some Sunni parties, and the secular Iraqi List, remarkable as the first attempt at a national-party cross-sect political formation. As an institution I don't think anything has been heard from them, but the political effort at broad-based nationalism does continue to show up in the news (Arabic, not English) from time to time. (See for instance Jaafari talks to the opposition; and Sunni-Shia conference... And recent remarks in AlHayat show Maliki was concerned about the war on Sadr morphing into a nationalist happening.

So what? The point is that if you re-read the text of Sadr's cease-fire statement yesterday, you will notice that it is not couched in the form of an agreement between the party of the first part and the party of the second part. It is a statement of what should and/or will happen, by way of complying with the Shariah requirement to not take human life without justification. All Iraqis are part of this project. It is just that one group and one leader in particular has taken the lead in laying this down and starting to implement it, and it is not Maliki. But the idea behind it is the opposite of sectarian or sect-based calculations. This was not a coup or anything like that, but it was a manifestation of nationalist thinking of a kind that further weakens the Green Zone government, because it suggested that leadership belongs to someone other than Maliki. Something like a moral takeover, perhaps you could say. And it is in this context that I think the involvement of people from the "12-party understanding" is meaningful.

I wouldn't make an issue of this if it was just a question of a kremlinologist's photo-analysis--why is AlSahlani in this version and not the Iranian; and why the Iranian and not AlSahlani in this version. Because in any event there's no doubt that the commander of the Qods Brigades is powerful with the Badr Brigades, and they had to be brought into the agreement, no doubt about that. The problem is the oversimplification: namely that Iran intervened to stop the fighting. Because it seems to me to be just another way of using spin to cover over the main story, which is the Iraqis' efforts to (re)unite their country over the heads of the likes of Maliki.

(Update: Ladybird from (see the comments) tells us AlSahlani is what they call "the fine and slender thread" that joins the three biggest Shiite factions, having a relationship with each camp, so no doubt his presence at the talks was particularly significant (and his absense from the McClatchy story also). I'd like to speculate further, but maybe time will tell)

* [It seems that conflating of Jaafari and the Dawa--Iraq Organization wings isn't right: The Dawa Party--Iraq Organization has indeed challenged the Maliki administration, for instance by signing on to the so-called 12-party agreement (See AlHayat January 14 2008). And there is a Jaafari wing that has also challenged the Maliki administration, for instance when Jaafari talked to some resistance people in Cairo, but I think I jumped to conclusions in thinking these two Dawa-based challenges to Maliki are one and the same. It seems they're not the same (see an Aswat alIraq piece from Sept 16 2007, which talks about them as two different things)].


Anonymous Ladybird said...

I don’t know if I am helping here or not? And I don’t now if I am adding anything new

AlSahlani is (Sha’arat Ma’awiya) [if you know this Arabic expression] or the tiny fine thread that connect the three major Shiites factions together, AlSahlani is member of Jaafri wing [Jaafri connection], he is the minder and the brain behind the three-federation state option [Al-Hakim connection], and his grand Shiite reference (Marja’a or Muqalad) is Ayatollah Al-Ha’ari [Al-Sadr connection].

12:23 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Thank you for that.

It's fascinating. I had no idea who he was, except for the Jaafari connection. I don't think we have an expression in English for this kind of a role.

As you can see, I'm struggling to keep up with you.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous gj said...

Is it generally accepted now that Moqtada is in Iran, has been for some time and is under Iranian control?

If so what does this portend for Moqtada's much trumpeted "nationalist" pretensions?

4:02 PM  
Blogger badger said...

gj/bb/barbara: you are clearly under Australian control? and if so what does this portend? Please, take your material elsewhere?

4:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home