News came yesterday that U.S. forces issued an arrest warrant for radical Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Last week, al-Sadr made the news for declaring that 9/11 was a miracle from God and for declaring collaboration with Palestinian terrorist groups. (Via The Command Post).
What the other news accounts left out was one significant, but well-established fact: Al-Sadr works for Iran. He is an Iranian agent. His authority comes from Iran.
Last April, an Iranian cleric, Kadhem al-Husseini al-Haeri, issued a religious edict and distributed to Shiite mullahs in Iraq, calling on them "to seize the first possible opportunity to fill the power vacuum in the administration of Iraqi cities."
The edict, or fatwa, issued April 8, 2003, showed that Shiite clerics in Iraq are receiving significant direction from Iran. The edict said that Shiite leaders have to "seize as many positions as possible to impose a fait accompli for any coming government." [...]
On April 7, the day American troops effectively toppled Hussein's government by seizing its main seats of power in Baghdad, al-Haeri sent a handwritten letter to the city of Najaf, appointing Moktada al-Sadr as his deputy in Iraq.
Haeri wrote: "We hereby inform you that Mr. Moktada al-Sadr is our deputy and representative in all fatwa affairs." It added: "His position is my position."
Almost one year ago, Farah also reported that an Iranian-trained army was in Iraq.
More on the al-Sadr/Iran connection:
SMCCDI, an Iranian student group, reports that more trained "pilgrims" to enter Iraq.
In reality these so-called [Arba-in] Pilgrims are Iranian Intelligence officers and Arab mercenaries trained, by the Islamic republic regime, with the task of creating more complication for America in its War Against Terror and to avoid the stabilization of Iraq.
The loyalty of many of [Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr] supporters has now passed to another son, Hojatoleslam Muqtada al-Sadr, a mid-level cleric about 30 years of age. Unlike his father, Muqtada has no formal religious standing to interpret the Koran, and relies for religious authority on an Iran-based Iraqi exiled cleric, Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri.
And this from Asian News: Imam Muqtada Al-Sadr threatens to launch Intifada.
Several months ago Al-Sadr visited Iran where he was warmly received by the Ayatollah Khamenei and Hashemi Rafsanjani. According to Arab sources, Khamenei probably compared Al Sadr to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, when wishing him luck in kicking out American forces in Iraq “like the Hezbollah did to Israel in Lebanon”.
Shiite Arabs in Iraq express relatively little support for attacks against coalition forces such as those that occurred Sunday. And while most do express confidence in religious leaders and call for them to play a role in Iraq today, most do not seek a theocracy, and very few see Iran as a model for Iraq. A nationwide poll of Iraqis conducted in February for ABCNEWS also found that very few Shiites express support for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia mounted the deadly attacks against the U.S.-led occupation.
It is noteworthy that not all Shiites are calling for a theocracy. However, the poll questions are worded in a way that leaves me wondering exactly what kind of government they do want. Though "Democracy" is apparently preferred over "Islamic State," the polls indicates that Shiites also overwhelming support a "a Government Mainly of Religious Leaders."
On the Iraqi front, Iran's mullahs have stepped up their campaign to increase their influence in that country. Tehran has two main objectives in Iraq: to create a client regime there and to rid itself from its Iraq-based main opposition, the Iranian Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK).
Since coming to power in 1979, the mullahs have considered Iraq the ideal springboard to export "Islamic Revolution" throughout the region. They view a pro-Tehran Iraq as a counterweight to the advancement of democracy in the Middle East. Clearly, a secular democratic Iraq would be a strategic blow to Tehran. For now, US policy makers should expect Iran to address the threat it perceives from the US in Iraq with terrorist violence.
The Tehran regime has mounted an increasingly sophisticated, multi-phased and multi-faceted campaign in Iraq.
UPDATE II: CNN reports: Coalition battling al-Sadr supporters in Najaf.
In the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq, al-Sadr's militia was in control of government, police and spiritual sites, a coalition source said. Al-Sadr also was busing followers into Najaf from Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood, according to the coalition source, who said that many members of his outlawed militia, Mehdi's Army, were from surrounding provinces.
Al-Sadr -- who is wanted on murder charges in connection with the killing of a rival last year -- reportedly has taken refuge in the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. A posting on al-Sadr's Web site said he has called for a general strike.
UPDATE III: The New York Sun featured an op-ed yesterday by Michael Rubin that does an excellent job of detailing al-Sadr's connection to Iran: The Puppet Masters. (Hat tip to Edwin)
Ignoring challenges may be diplomatically convenient, but the costs are high. Foggy Bottom has for too long sought engagement with the clerical regime in Iran. Even if evidence existed that dialogue has led to meaningful reform, the involvement of the Qods Force in Iraq shows that our track-two partners in dialogue are either insincere or cannot deliver. Iran's clerical regime poses an ideological challenge inimical to the religious freedom, gender equality, and liberty Iraqis desire.
Iran is neither a democracy nor a partner in Iraq. Wishful thinking kills Americans. The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to sponsor terrorism and just last week declared its intent to construct a nuclear reactor capable of weapons-grade plutonium production. It is time for the White House to deal with reality.
Posted by Forkum at April 6, 2004 07:32 AM