Moqtada al-Sadr

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Quotes

“Out of my desire to complete Iraq’s independence and to finish the withdrawal of the occupation forces from our holy lands, I am obliged to halt military operations of the honest Iraqi resistance until the withdrawal of the occupation forces is complete.”

“I have said it many times: The policy of exclusion and the policy of marginalization must end in Iraq.”

“[I welcome] any Jew who prefers Iraq to Israel and there is no difference between Jews, Muslims or Christians when it comes to the sense of nationalism. Those who do not carry out their national duties are not Iraqis even if they were Shiite Muslims."

“If it does not serve the Iraqi people, there are only political means that must be followed to reform the government – a new government that we must give the chance to prove that it is there to serve the people.”


You are Moqtada al-Sadr, Leader of the Sadrist Movement in Iraq

Early Years and Education

You are Moqtada al-Sadr. You were born August 4, 1974 in Al-Najaf, Iraq as the son to the late Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, a famous and beloved Iraqi Shi’ite religious leader and champion for the impoverished Iraqis. Your father and two of your brothers were murdered later in the 1990s, supposedly by Saddam Hussein’s government. In 1994, you married a daughter of Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr, another revered figure in the Islamic Shi’ite world who was killed by Iraqi leaders in 1980. You do not have any children.

Shi’ite Islam has always been central in your life, and after completing middle school, you enrolled in the Shi’ite Islamic hawzah (religious seminary), though you never completed your training. Rumors also spread in 2008 that you were studying in an ayatollah to improve your religious standing, though these rumors were not verified.

Public Life

As the son of the late Grand Ayatollah, you have been in the public light from a young age. After the United States helped to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003 (and a regime which you distrusted and opposed), you gained major success, especially in the Sadr City sector of Baghdad as you pushed for political reform and an end to American occupation. You created a movement with thousands of people, including a military group called Jaysh al-Mahdi. Western media portrays you as an “anti-American” and “radical” religious figure due to violent outbursts from your military group against American occupiers and other coalition groups in Iraq and from the death squads that your military wing created during the Iraq Civil War from 2003-2011. Your larger Sadr group had previously assumed the form of a pseudo-government by implementing law enforcement, prisons, religious courts, and public services in regions under your control.

On February 15, 2014, after years in the political spotlight, you announced the closure of all public offices and operations related to your Sadr faction inside and outside of Iraq, as you wished to withdraw yourself and your coalition from politics. You remained a public (if not formally political) figure during this period, and you publicly called for the disbandment of paramilitary groups and for the departure of all foreign troops from Iraq after your country defeated ISIS. In 2017 you visited Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates crown princes for diplomatic purposes for the first time in 11 years. In that same year, you publicly contradicted popular Shi’ite beliefs by asking the Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad (who is backed by Iran) to step down from his position as the country’s leader. You often mimic the actions of the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in your attempts to unite the conflicting nations of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In 2018 you formally re-entered into the Iraqi political sphere with your victory in the May 2018 election. Though you have won the position as the head of the Iraqi Parliament and your political coalition won more seats than any other party (54 seats out of 329), you have refused the position of Prime Minister and your party does not have enough seats to formally control the government. Though the elections have been considered relatively peaceful, opposing coalitions are claiming that they have been marked with heavy voter fraud, especially where your political bloc is concerned. In the meantime, you retain a strong support base as a formerly anti-American religious radical that became a moderate and popular national politician.

Your Political Beliefs

Though as of the May 2018 elections, you claim to hold no formal political beliefs, you began your public and political career in 2003 based on a love for Shi’ite Islam and Iraq and a hatred towards Saddam Hussein (likely for his supposed role in the death of your much-beloved father), towards opposing coalitions (like the coalition-chosen Iraqi Governing Council, over which you claimed to have more power), and towards foreign occupiers (especially the United States). Between 2003 and 2014 when your radical political bloc was first active, you were quoted many times about your disdain for the American occupiers who killed innocent Iraqi citizens and involved themselves in the post-Saddam government. You pledged to oppose them at any cost, urging your followers to do the same, and to take Iraq back for the Iraqis. To this end, you felt morally justified in using your military group, Jaysh al-Mahdi, to violently counter American forces and coalition groups alike through the use of death squads and other actions during the Iraqi Civil War. Though you never formally wanted a role in Iraqi politics, even during this period, you felt obliged to protect the Iraqi citizens and to liberate the country from the oppression foreign occupiers. Your coalition, therefore, was deeply based in Shi’ite Islam, which was the backbone of your quasi-government in your area of influence.

In 2014, after the Iraqi Civil War, you began to look outside of Iraq in terms of your political interests. While you disbanded the Al-Shaheed al-Sadr national and international centers, you continued to make diplomatic trips, visiting the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2017. To this end, you were hoping to create peace between Saudi Arabia and their enemy Iran, which is a position that shocks many Shi’ite Muslims. Though you are a Shi’ite Muslim, you hope for peace in the Middle East and, above all, in Iran. Today, while your political beliefs are not well-known, you appear to be a more moderate national politician, especially with the large reduction of occupying foreign forces in Iraq. Because of this, you have greatly reduced your militia in Iraq and have cooperated with the existing government, even if you do not wish to lead it. One of your main focuses is on service to poor Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims, which was a great concern of your father as well.

On the Arab-Israeli conflict, you do not greatly involve yourself. You have not taken a public pro-Israel or pro-Palestine stance, nor have you commented on the issue of the one-state or two state-solution. However, since 2013 you have made comments welcoming Christians and Jews back to Iraq, especially the historical populations that were expelled from the country as a result of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. You are more concerned with Iraqi nationalism and Middle Eastern peace than religion, and as long as members of various religious groups feel more tied to Iraq than to Israel or any other religious “homeland,” you welcome them into Iraq. You have even stated that “Those who do not carry out their national duties are not Iraqis even if they were Shi’ite Muslims.”

Playing Moqtada al-Sadr

Religion (Shi’ite Islam) is important to every decision that you make, even in politics. However, you are deeply concerned with Iraqi national unity more than with religious differences, so you do not criticize others with different religious views. You are most disturbed by Iraqi citizens and political factions who are not loyal to the country and who do not serve the general Iraqi public. You are especially concerned with poor, underprivileged Iraqis and believe that it is yours and the government’s job to serve them and raise them out of poverty. You hope for peace in the Middle East, especially among Islamic countries. This is why you have pushed for peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Though your position is less radical and more moderate now, you still hold a deep dislike for foreign forces, so you are not likely to accept any form of assistance from them that would require foreign occupiers in the country and tampering with Iraqi political, social, and economic systems.

While former occupying governments like the United States might be weary to trust you and the Iraqi government in general, American and Jewish publications seem to indicate at least a public tolerance for you (as indicated by online news publications written in your favor by America’s National Public Radio and Israel’s Haaretz Daily Newspaper in 2018 following the Iraqi elections), as they see benefits to your desire for peace in Iraq and in the Middle East and to your acceptance of Iraqis of other religious backgrounds. If you play your cards right, you could win the support of at least the Israeli public. In your own country, you do face some criticism from other political blocs because of alleged corruption in the May 2018 elections, but thus far your position in Parliament and that of your party’s is secure. Because of your popularity in Iraq and possibly growing popularity in the rest of the world (due to your more moderate beliefs), you could be an influential voice in Iraq’s position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, should you choose to involve yourself directly. As you re-emerge onto the public, political stage in the Arab-Israeli Conflict Simulation, the main question is whether or not you will continue on your current “moderate” nationalist path or if you will revert to your precious “radical” and violent actions.



References

Arraf, Jane. “After Muqtada Al-Sadr's Surprise Win, Iraq's Political Leaders Try To Form Government.” National Public Radio, National Public Radio, Inc., 26 May 2018, <www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/05/26/614433787/after-muqtada-al-sadrs-surprise-win-iraqs-political-leaders-try-to-form-governme>

Bahry, Louay. “Muqtadā Al-Ṣadr.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 June 2018, <www.britannica.com/biography/Muqtada-al-Sadr>

BrainyQuote. “Muqtada Al Sadr Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, <www.brainyquote.com/authors/muqtada_al_sadr>

Haaretz. “New Iraqi Leader Proclaims Jews Can Return: 'They Are Welcome'.” Haaretz, Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd., 14 June 2018, <www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/new-iraqi-leader-welcomes-jews-to-return-1.6174480>

“Muqtada Al-Sadr.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Sept. 2018, <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muqtada_al-Sadr>.

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