Thursday, May 15, 2008

Reflections of a Sadrist internal debate about the agreement

A group calling itself the Sons of the Army of the Imam Mahdi published a statement yesterday in the resistance-oriented newspaper Al Badil alIraqi ( in which they said the "agreement" between the Sadrists and the UIA, and the accompanying statement purporting to be in Moqtada alSadr's handwriting, are forgeries perpetrated by sellouts around Sadr, and should be ignored. They cited differences in style compared to earlier authentic Sadr statements, inauthentic handwriting, and said the affixed at the bottom even appears to be photoshopped, in addition to their substantive claim, namely that adherence to this would be disastrous for the Mahdi Army.

(WARNING:, mentioned below, as of Thursday evening, seems to be infected with a virus, so it isn't a good idea to check it out.)
I don't know enough to evaluate any of that, but the fact of the matter is that the documents (16-point agreement and the handwritten intro) appear to have been scrubbed from the Sadrist news-site where they had been posted earlier yesterday (the site, having been down "for maintenance", came back online yesterday but with blank space in the boxes where the statements had been. And the another popular Sadrist news-site,, now has no reference to the agreement at all. Another Sadrist site still posts both.

There is another factor that suggests the internal dispute about this is being taken seriously. The remarks by the main spokesman for the agreement, Salah alObeidi, printed in AlHayat this morning, include, first of all, a warning that the provocations by the American and Iraqi forces could well sink the agreement. This seems to be an acknowledgment that insofar as the dissidents feel anxiety about this, the anxiety is not without merit, and is being taken seriously. Then he goes on to make a series of interesting remarks about the Najaf authorities, including the Ayatollah Sistani. Obeidi says:
"All of the religious authorities are in non-agreement with dissolving the Mahdi Army, and even the Ayatollah Sistani is not in agreement with that". And Obeidi said: "The decisions of Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr are not issued until they have been referred to the authorities and their views taken. The religious authorities do not accept cutting out the Sadrist trend, or any other entity, from the political process. This was referred to by Sistani's depute Abdulmehdi al-Karbala'i in his sermon on Friday..."

And [Obeidi] continued: Sistani's office rejects the very concept that is at the center of the thinking of the governing groups and of the occupation, namely disarmament, because that would mean, in the current balance, an unacceptable [result] because of the existence of other militias of other groups that are armed, within sight and hearing of the state [authorities], such as the Awakenings, and the Asaysh (?) and others. So why is the government targeting the Mahdi Army in particular?
And in this connection Obeidi repeated the story about Sistani's alleged remark to Maliki on the occasion of their first meeting after his election as Prime Minister: "The Mahdi Army is your winning political card; don't lose it".

The above remarks are probably intended to be soothing in the context of the anxiety about the "agreement" weakening the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist movement as a whole.

And AlHayat concludes with two other remarks by Obeidi, also best understood as part of his response to the opponents of the agreement. First, he suggests it is most of all the Americans who are against any agreement of this type. He says:
"The American forces occupying Iraq are not pleased when calm and stability reigns; rather they are continually striving to eliminate the Sadrist trend and to bar it from the political process". He said, "The Americans have been trying to provoke the Mahdi Army since [the agreement was reached on] Saturday."
Finally, Obeidi acknowledges that Sadr has delegated a lot of authority to others, perhaps partly acknowledging the involvement of others than Sadr himself in structuring this agreement, but with Sadr's explicit authorization (and not, as the dissident group claimed, by way of usurping his name).

Obeidi seems to be saying: To the extent an agreement like this accords with mainstream Najaf thinking, this should be seen as positive, not as negative, for the Sadrist movement in the long term; to the extent the Americans will be trying to sink it, this too is an indication an agreement like this is to our advantage. And the fact that Sadr himself wasn't involved in all the details isn't a decisive argument against it.

Naturally, as indicated by the Badil al-Iraq piece, and the fact that some Sadrist sites have gone so far as to scrub the agreement-text from their sites, this isn't necessarily going to be the convincing argument.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aloha, Badger! There's two must read articles in the Asia Times today! I addressed Gareth Porter's today at M&C, but, you should take a swing or two at Pepe Escobar's... Both, address the deafening silence from the MSM on reporting the true situation on the ground in Iraq as related to Iran... Pepe's is more up your alley with the MSM's 'mistranslations' of Ahminejad's words... Food for thought! ;-)
The US-Iran sound bite showdown

8:56 PM  
Blogger badger said...

interesting, but a little over my pay-scale, CTuttle...

9:46 PM  

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