Al Sadr, the last rebel: From the persecutions under Saddam to the struggle for leadership in Iraq

Al Sadr, the last rebel: From the persecutions under Saddam to the struggle for leadership in Iraq

by Lorenzo Cremonesi

In Baghdad, the protests in the name of the historic anti-US leader, with NATO Italians at the window

Terrorist and peace leader, political and religious super-parties, linked to the Iranian theocracy but then willing to deny it amalgamation with the communists: from a very young age, Muqtada al Sadr has been the mad pawn on the Iraqi political scene. Today, at the age of 49, he is the main perpetrator of the wave of violence that has shaken the country, leaving at least 25 dead (all his supporters) and almost 400 injured. On Monday, it was his public declaration that he wanted to leave politics (he has said so several times in the past and has later regularly refused) that prompted his activists to take to the streets and re-occupy Parliament. The clashes with Tehran-backed Shia militias were extremely violent. But for the Sadrists it is inconceivable that their leader would throw in the towel. In last October’s elections, his Shia-Communist coalition, Saairun (from the Arabic acronym Allenza per la Reforma), won the first party with a relative majority of 73 seats out of 329 seats in parliament. And they came en masse from the overcrowded neighborhoods of Sadr City, from the poor villages of the Shia South, from the religious academies of the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala to beg him to remain in the name of Allah and social justice.

He, from his Aventine in his father’s house in the Sadrist fief of Najaf, responded yesterday as a true spiritual leader that not a drop of Iraqi blood should be shed and therefore the demonstrators must first return home. Even outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi thanked him as a patriot who believes in peace. It is fundamental for Muqtada to attain that moral halo that should enable him to dominate the pro-Iranian Shia parties led by the hated former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and eventually emerge victorious at the head of the next government in the return politics.

In Muqtada, the Italian military contingent that has commanded the NATO forces in the country since the spring. Shortly after the US invasion in 2003, he spoke about him. He was only 19 years old, but he was a blue-blooded scion within the forces that had historically opposed Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime. His father was the great Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al Sadr, the supreme leader of the Shia community assassinated by Saddam’s assassins in 1999. His grandfather, also famous in the Iranian mosques of Qom, had followed the same path. His uncle was the same Lebanese Shia leader Musa al Sadr who founded the Amal movement before mysteriously disappearing in Libya. Muqtada could therefore have behaved like many other Shia exponents: collaborate with the Americans, then revive ties with Tehran and rule by crushing the Sunni minority.

But he did something totally unexpected: he sided with the American invader, also launched an armed Shia guerrilla movement very similar to the Sunni jihadists, and he plotted to assassinate US-collaborating Shia imams, Abdul among them Majid Al Khoei, who Washington believed should have steered post-Saddam Iraq toward democracy. For a long time, Muqtada was the wanted number one in the US military. His armed squads also posed problems for the Italians in Nassiriya. Escape to Iran. But a decade later he broke with the ayatollahs, took up his grandfather’s old idea of ​​founding the peace brigades for the poor, blunted his religious beliefs and joined the Communist Party to draw Tehran’s arrows. For at least 7 years he has been posing as some sort of interfaith national-popular guru determined to defeat sectarianism in the name of the war on corruption. And no doubt his star will shine again.

August 31, 2022 (Modified August 31, 2022 | 4:33 PM)