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Muqtada Al-Sadr; a Problem or a Solution?

By Yassin Taha
“Reform and Eliminating Corruption” is the most attractive magical cut-end solution that proposed by Muqtada Al Sadr, Shiite Cleric and head of Ahrar Block. It got everyone’s attention for over a week. Under the same title, he crossed all political, and security barriers in Iraq by leading massive and unprecedented demonstrations at Iraq’s most secured compound, Green Zone.

In the past, getting close to this compound required complete security clearance and permission. He has started his strike inside the Green Zone and military generals received him as a spiritual leader.
The question is, does Sadr a reformist and right leader to lead the demonstrations? Alternatively, is it an attempt to keep himself and his block clean out of the corruptions? He might try to utilize the anger for personal gains as well. However, observers have different views on the developments and Sadr’s real intention.
Sadr block has been part of the Iraqi Governments cabinet since 2004. However, been at the forefront of Shiite politicians of Anti-America rhetoric and undeveloped political agenda, Ahrar ministers got, rather, less important ministry positions. Therefore, Sadr’s share in Iraqi corruptions and access to public revenue were limited. The Dawa Party, headed by former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Malki, is the ruling party that controls Iraq’s highest positions since 2005. The Dawa leaders are now trying very hard to keep the situation as it is because they got lion share in the corruptions. After Dawa Party, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) comes in the second. The ISCI and its leader, Ammar Al-Hakim, involvement in the corruptions in investments sectors, real estate, and government positions covered in all Iraqi media.
Sadr movement comes at the third level. Its involvement in the corruption is relative compared to the other main Shiite blocks. Therefore, they speak in a louder voice to their people and angry people of Iraq. Moreover, Sadr had abandoned his ministers before Abadi and sent them to court as well.
Nevertheless, Sadr’s active role in the demonstrations is only about eliminating corruption, which is a consequence of years Islamic Shiite Parties, but it is a way of showing Sadr’s influence as spiritual and popular leader. There is conflict among Shiite’s first and second generations of former religious authorities to increase popularities. It is also part of revenge from Dawa Party whose leader, Nouri Al-Malki, confronted Sadr’s Mahdi Militias and its leaders with an iron fist from (2005-2010). There are tens of Mahdi Militia leaders in prison.
Although, Sadr is considered as a savior for many including Sunnis, Shiites, scholars, Islamists, and even leftists. In the past, he was known as part of the problem like any other Shiite leader. The reason people follow him is because he is the only one can challenge Dawa Party and Shiite Alliance dominance in Iraq. There is no other person like Sadr, now, to gather people and get even closer to Green Zone. In the past liberals and independent groups and leaders tried to lead the demonstrations but they were either killed or left the country under threat. Hadi Al-Mahdi is an example of those who sought to challenge Iraqi government by leading demonstration in Baghdad. Later, he was found dead at his home in 2011. Others accused of being Baathist or terrorism. None of these accusations will work against Sadr.
People of Baghdad have no other choice but to follow him. Whether they are Sardis or not, Shiite or Sunnis, Islamist or scholar, they will all find him as their best tool to revenge politicians and end corruptions. Because Sadr is providing a cut-end solution to the current situation and that is what people want.
However, Sadr’s success is dependent on many other things that are beyond his control. Sadr’s militia, Saraya al-Salam, is among the most effective groups who face ISIL on the ground. He deployed his militia on the street to protect the security of the demonstrations as well. But he asks for a technocratic cabinet to replace Abadi’s government without realizing that the problems are beyond cabinet change. He is asking Abadi to hold Nouri Al-Malki accountable, which is impossible because Malki is still the most powerful man in Dawa Party. The people, on the other, hand want to topple the government and bring government official to justice. People want to have a government to provide services, jobs, and security. A technocrat cabinet is far from that.
The United States, on the other hand, is worried that the demonstrations might transform to violence because what Sadr wants is revenge rather than political reform. However, the US hailed PM Abadi’s attempt to conduct reforms many times, but his reforms stuck where they started. The US understand people’s grievances. Therefore, it (the US) wants to empower Abadi through international assistance to Iraq. As the US Chief of Mission in Baghdad, Stuart Jones, announced during Sulaimani Forum that in G7 Summit in May, Iraq will achieve more supports. But, there is one problem; time. Probably Abadi’s time up.
For the US, Sadr has always been a problem even if he is not. His bloody past against the US Army in Iraq discredit his works. For the people, he is a solution and the only one. For Sadris, it is revenge.
Yassin Taha is a journalist from Iraqi Kurdistan. He is the head of Iraq Desk at NRT. Previously, he worked for Awene Newspaper. He is an expert in Shiite-Sunnis affairs.
Follow him on Twitter @@taha_yaseen

1 Comment on Muqtada Al-Sadr; a Problem or a Solution?

  1. Sarkawt Shamulddin // March 28, 2016 at 9:19 pm // Reply

    Reblogged this on .

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