ALL I WANTED WAS A SWEET DISTRACTION
FOR AN HOUR OR TWO
HAD NO INTENTIONS TO DO
THE THINGS WE'VE DONE.
FUNNY HOW IT ALWAYS GOES WITH LOVE
WHEN YOU DON'T LOOK YOU FIND
BUT THEN WE'RE TWO OF A KIND
WE MOVE AS ONE.
WE'RE AN ALL TIME HIGH
RITA COOLIDGE SANG THE ABOVE AND THEY WERE TRUE IN BETTER DAYS FOR CELEBRITY IN CHIEF AND OCTOPUSSY BARRY O.
BUT THOSE DAYS ARE GONE.
THESE DAYS, BARRY O'S AT AN ALL TIME LOW. AFP REVEALS "A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS FOR THE FIRST TIME [ARE] BELIEVING HIM TO BE DISHONEST AND UNTRUSTWORTHY."
54% DISAPPROVE VERSUS THE 39% SAYING "HECK OF A JOB, BARRY!"
THE FREE FALL HAS THE DHALIBAMA IN A PANIC. WHITE HOUSE SOURCES SAY HE RAN AROUND THE EAST WING TODAY STRIPPING OFF HIS CLOTHES AND SCREAMING, "HOW WILL I GET RE-ELECTED TO A THIRD TERM WITH THESE NUMBERS!"
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader in Iraq, has declared no third term as prime minister for Nouri al-Maliki. All Iraq News reports that in response to a question about Nouri getting "a third term despite the problems that face Iraqis because of Maliki"? Moqtada responded he "would not approve" of granting Nouri a third term.
In anticipation of expected parliamentary elections (said to take place April 30th), campaign season is kicking off in Iraq. In 2011, Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) dubbed Moqtada -- who made Time's list of top 100 influential people in the world -- "the ayatullah in training" (Peter James Field offers a nice ink and pen sketch of Moqtada with Ghosh's copy). As the Iraq War continues, Moqtada changes and grows -- at least for public consumption. In July, Ali Abel Sadah (Al-Monitor) quoted Moqtada making a statement about how the next prime minister of Iraq would "stand against the occupier" and this was in response to remarks by US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft.
Iraq may or may not hold elections in April -- with the Iraqi political system, nothing is ever a given. And there are serious concerns being raised by the political blocs and, yes, by some on the Independent High Electoral Commission, about Iraq's move to electronic voting and the security of that vote. In addition, Wael Grace reports that there's a complaint filed today with the federal court challenging the law stating it is illegal since it was not sent from the presidency but from the Parliament. Moqtada's bloc has weighed in insisting that the law is legal. State of Law weighs in via MP Hassan al-Yasiri declaring that the law is in violation. This is also why State of Law is stating that a verdict agreeing the law is illegal will mean the current government is extended until 2016. No, I don't understand how that would be the outcome either but this is the court Nouri controls so the law gets tossed out by them all the time.
So let's talk Moqtada. The 40-year-old was born August 12, 1973 in Najaf or the 39-year-old was born August 12, 1974. Even his date of birth is in dispute.
Moqtada's late father, said to have been killed on the orders of Saddam Hussein, was Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr. Moqtada has influence within Iraq due to his family. The US invasion of Iraq aided Moqtada's reputation as the US and British governments targeted him. This only increased his profile. Encyclopedia Britannica notes how quickly Moqtada rose, "Almost immediately after U.S.-led forces toppled Ṣaddām’s regime in 2003 (see Iraq War), Ṣadr emerged from the shadows and began to open offices in his father’s name (known collectively as the Office of the Martyr Ṣadr) in Baghdad, Al-Najaf, Karbalāʾ, Al-Baṣrah, and other areas. He had immediate success in Madinat al-Thawrah (Revolution City), a poor Baghdad suburb of two million Shīʿites, which he renamed Ṣadr City in honour of his father. By the end of that year Ṣadr headed a Shīʿite political movement known as the Ṣadrist Movement and had attracted millions of Shīʿite followers across Iraq, mainly youth and the poor and downtrodden, to whom he offered a variety of social, educational, and health services."
He was referred to as "anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr" in the press when maybe he should have been termed "pro-Iraqi cleric"? In Civil Rights In Peril: The Targeting of Arabs and Muslims (Elaine C. Hagopian, editor), it's noted that "Al-Sadr has a following among the two million Shia who live in Sadr City (formerly Saddam City), a poor Shia area of Baghdad. " In addition to that stronghold area, he also has millions of followers in southern Iraq. The Council on Foreign Relations states:
Muqtada's movement did not grow out of an organized structure, and instead emerged as a loose coalition of young imams and armed volunteers rushing to fill a power vacuum. But political prowess and a penchant for drama -- along with a steadfast opposition to the U.S. occupation and his family credentials -- coalesced to reinvent the younger Sadr. As the Sadrist insider told the ICG in early 2006, "One hardly hears the expression za'tut anymore." Comprised mainly of young, impoverished Iraqi Shiites, much of Sadr's base lives in Sadr City, though he also has strong ties to Najaf, the holy city where the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is buried. Sadr's followers have also been active in Basra and other majority Shiite towns, including Kut, Nasiriyah, Karbala -- Iraq's other holy Shiite city -- and Kufa. Estimates of Sadr's support base range from 3 million to 5 million.
Moqtada was far from a saint in this period and he ran a militia -- which most people who could have would have done the same when foreigners occupied their country. Even more so when you grasp he was being targeted by the US military. Matt J. Martin and Charles W. Sasser notes one battle in their book Predator: The Remote-control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: a Pilot's Story:
On July 31 , al-Sadr broke the ceasefire after U.S. Marines and the Iraqi National Guard raided a safe house in Karbala and nabbed some al-Sadr representatives. Al-Sadr issued a blatant challenge to the new government, demanding that his people "be freed, and if this is ignored then we will respond at the appropriate time."
Iraqi police and U.S. troops surrounded al-Sadr's house on August 3 and engaged in a furious firefight with hundreds of Mahdi fighters defending the house. Clashes spread to the old city of Najaf. By August 13, the cleric and the main body of the resistance were trapped inside a cordon around the Imam Ali Mosque. Day after day I flew over the shining dome and its twin minarets and watched insurgents below brazenly shooting rockets and mortar rounds indiscriminately into the surrounding neighborhoods.
It looked like the stalemate might finally reach a conclusion as August drew toward an end, thanks to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. At seventy-four years old, he was an Iranian and "Twlever" (those who believed that the return of the Twelfth Mahdi and the end of the world were imminent) who had resided in Iraq since 1951. He returned from London, where he had sought medical treatment, and traveled to Najaf in a "peace convoy . . . to stop the bloodshed." Al-Sadr was apparently ready to call another truce: the Mahdi resistance had suffered hundreds of casualties since April, whereas U.S. Marine losses were fairly light.
The following day, al-Sistani announced that he had compromised an agreement with al-Sadr: The Mahdi Army would voluntarily disarm and leave Najaf if U.S. forces withdrew from the city and returned control of it to Iraq authorities. I watched from the air as the disarmament process unfolded.
Moqtada's part of the Shi'ite majority and, in 2006, when Saddam Hussein was executed by the puppet government of the United States, and even though Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister at the time and had been for over 8 months, when Iraqi guards executed Hussein, they chanted "Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!" -- according to Patrick Cockburn's Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr the Shie Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq. Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reported:
Footage of Saddam’s last moments, taken by an onlooker with a mobile phone, shows the former dictator appearing calm and composed while dealing with taunts from witnesses below him. The audio reveals several men praising the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr, founder of the Shia Dawa Party, who was killed by Saddam in 1980.
“Peace be upon Muhammad and his followers,” shouted someone near the person who filmed the events. “Curse his enemies and make victorious his son Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada.” These chants are commonly used by members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia..
There has been a huge international backlash to the footage. In India millions of Muslims demonstrated against the execution being carried out during the sacred festival of Eid.
An arrest warrant was issued by the occupied government for Moqtada and he left Iraq until the start of 2011. Hayder al-Khoei (Guardian) wrote at the time:
Moqtada al-Sadr has finally returned to Najaf in Iraq after almost four years of self-imposed exile. Senior Sadrists claimed that the reason he left Iraq was to continue his theological studies in Iran. However, there was another thorny issue behind his absence: Sadr is still wanted by the Iraqi judiciary for his alleged involvement in my father's murder eight years ago.
The arrest warrant for Sadr stands to this day as Iraqi judge Raed al-Juhi signed it in April 2004. Juhi is the investigative judge who presided over the first hearing of the Dujail massacre that eventually led to Saddam Hussein's execution in December 2006.
The father assassinated was Abdul-Majid al-Khoei, on April 10, 2003, mere weeks after the US invaded. Why was he assassinated? He was using his position to advocate on behalf of the occupiers, the United States. From 1992 until after the US invasion, he had lived in England. The exile returned to Iraq the month of his death. No sooner did he return, than he started advocating for the US. That's not a description that begs for a war welcome. He was assassinated in Najaf and any number of people could have carried out the assassination on any number of people's orders. More importantly, was the mob that attacked attacking al-Khoei or Haydar al-Killidar al-Rufaye? That's who al-Khoei was with and he's the one who was murdered by the mob immediately, al-Khoei near the end of the 90 minute assault.
As Linda Robison explains in Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of Special Forces, in Najaf, despite a move in Najaf when even the mayor was being rejected ("There was a mounting murmur of opposition, however, from residents who said Hattar was from outside Najaf and not one of them."), al-Khoei decided to go through Najaf and to do so without US proection ("My people will protect me."). In Proceedings of the Combat Studies Institute 2006 Military History Symposium(Kendall D. Gott, Michael G. Brooks), possible motives are noted:
Whatever the motive behind the killing, whether it was a rejection of reconciliation with Ba'athists or of al-Khoei's westernizing influence, or merely a criminal effort to gain control of the Shrine's lucrative revenues, it protended a rising tide of Iraqis killing other Iraqis.
Was Moqtada responsible? Even AP was skeptical as evidenced by the wording in this 2010 report:
U.S. officials blamed al-Sadr for the April 10, 2003, assassination of Shiite cleric Majid al-Khoie, who was slain after returning to the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad in hopes of winning support for the Americans from Shiite clergy.
A warrant was issued for al-Sadr in the al-Khoie slaying by Iraqi authorities in 2004, but he was never arrested. Instead, the warrant was quietly shelved as part of the cease-fire deals the Americans accepted under pressure from Shiite clerics and politicians.
In 2011, The Economist attempted to sum up the many strands in the public image of Moqtada:
Mr Sadr was once derided as “Ayatollah Atari”, a nickname denoting his love of computer games. He was also widely regarded as a thug, albeit one who performed astutely in the violent game of Iraqi politics. But he has still not revealed his latest goals and allegiances. After two years in exile, Mr Sadr has made only two high-profile appearances in Iraq to address his followers. A spokesman said he was testing to see whether Mr Maliki or the Americans would arrest him. But Mr Sadr has recently spent more time in Iraq, mainly in the Shia's holy city of Najaf. As the Americans draw down their numbers, his supporters may see a lot more of him.
And what they, and what Iraq and the world, saw was a new Moqtada. If you weren't noticing it, you weren't paying attention. In June of 2012, I wrote:
In December Nouri went from prime minister-designate to prime minister. And Nouri made clear that the Erbil Agreement wasn't a priority. By summer 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr are calling for the agreement to be implemented. This is the ongoing political crisis.
Who has benefitted the most from it?
'Too eratic, too radical, too young.' There was a list of 'toos' attached to the name of the person who wanted to be prime minister. While Nouri has looked like a dictator and out of control, Moqtada's actually benefitted from Little Saddam's tantrums which provided al-Sadr with the opportunity to show a rational and reasoned side as well as leadership skills that rarely translated prior on the world stage. It's a more mature Moqtada al-Sadr.
And that's really funny because the US government has always feared "radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr." True of the Bush adminsitration, true of the Barack administration.
In 2014, new elections are supposed to be held. If the US backs their puppet Nouri (who has had flunkies state that he would not run for a third term but whose attorney has stated Nouri can seek a third term), not only will it be clear to one and all that he is Little Saddam and 'democracy' in Iraq is a joke, but it will also become clear who has more power in the 'new' Iraq: DC or Tehran?
In 2010, Moqtada was not a viable choice for Tehran which feels closer ties to al-Sadr than Nouri but which was bothered by the 'too' list applied to Moqtada and by the fact that he was seen as divisive among Shi'ites (not to mention most Sunnis weren't crazy about him). The political crisis has allowed Moqtada to strut as a statesman and he's grabbed that opportunity and used it very well. He is the political star of Iraq currently.
By February 2013, even the Council on Foreign Relations was noting the new, public Moqtada. Eli Sugarman and Omar al-Nidawi offered:
Then, last spring, he abruptly changed course, and he has spent the past year reforming his image and serving as a voice of moderation in Iraq. Sadr now openly decries violence, advocates the peaceful resolution of Iraq’s political disputes, and prays with religious leaders from other faiths and sects.
On the one hand, Sadr’s new tune could reflect his genuine maturation and a newfound desire to play a positive role in Iraq’s dysfunctional political system; on the other hand, it could be just a new tactic to expand his influence and power. Either way, the more Sadr can convince Iraqis -- disenfranchised Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis alike -- that he is a reliable and moderate partner, the more power he will accrue at the expense of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite. Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and Kurds face a tough choice, because working with Sadr could lead to two very different outcomes. Joining him to challenge Maliki could perhaps promote a more inclusive political process, but it could also re-empower the rule of sectarian militias. The key for Iraqis is to vet the new Sadr carefully and insist that he backs his sweetened rhetoric with concrete actions.
Last April, Time's Sarah Price offered a look at Moqtada which closed with :
The discontent among Sunnis toward Maliki and his actions against them has also presented an opportunity for Sadr, says Alla Jumaa, a political professor at University of Anbar. He said Sadr is trying to get close to them by fighting for their rights, and using the unrest to gain their trust and following, trying to convince them to leave their feelings of sectarianism behind them. If it has not yet won the hearts of Sunni Iraqis, it does seem to be working with many of their leaders, who seem to believe that he is trying to put an end to the sectarianism that was perpetuated for years by Sadr himself, and violently through his followers.
But for an Iraq that has grown weary of power- and money-hungry leadership, the concern is not from where the help arrives, but how soon. And for Moqtada al-Sadr, the time could not be more ripe for him to take the lead.
Is this new Moqtada real? Was the 2003 Moqtada real? Who knows. But he's matured publicly and has become one of Iraq's 'elders of state' -- despite his young age. And he might just be the next prime minister of Iraq. Who is he?
It's all still a mystery to the west and maybe that's fitting? In 2008, Ali Al Mashakheel (ABC News) reported Moqtada's early love for mysteries:
Better known for fiery sermons against America’s military presence in Iraq, the Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr has revealed a softer side of his character, saying that as a young man he enjoyed reading Agatha Christie detective novels. The disclosure came during a rare appearance by the cleric in a 45-minute exclusive interview on an Iraqi TV station. During the interview, al Sadr concentrated mostly on his childhood, saying that he grew up with a fear of Saddam Hussein’s regime because members of his family were politically opposed to the former Iraqi dictator. Al Sadr told Afak TV station, “I liked to read detective stories,” particularly those of Agatha Christie, an English novelist who traveled extensively through Iraq in the early 20th century. In her opening chapter of "Murder on the 0rient Express," Christie describes a railway journey across Iraq by a young English woman in her 20s. When compared to the current level of danger and violence in Iraq, it’s a revealing insight into how safe it once was to travel the country. Iraq also features in another Agatha Christie novel called "Murder in Mesopotamia."
All Iraq News notes Moqtada visited a Najaf polling center today to update his electoral record and that "The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) called upon all citizens to update their electoral records to ensure their rights in voting for their candidaes during the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2014." All Iraq News also notes that Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq met with representatives of the European Union today at Ammar's Baghdad office. Ammar's into campaign mode as well.
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