Some were displeased by what I wrote in the article entitled “Sadrists Under Fire” [Asharq Al-Awsat, 27 April 2008] when I compared what is happening in Iraq today to Muqtada al Sadr and the Mehdi army to the fall of the Amal movement and the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Likewise, others were not too pleased when I stated that the military operation ‘Knights’ Assault’ could not have taken place without Tehran’s consent.
It appears that Iran wanted to avoid what its allies are confronting in Lebanon and instead of allying with the opposition in Iraq; it felt it would better to be allied with a ruling government like Nouri al Maliki’s.
Two days ago, commenting on the situation in Basra, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammed Ali Husseini told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “it is an internal Iraqi matter that Tehran does not want to get involved in.” But we all know that the whole of Iraq is an internal Iranian matter – same as it is an internal American matter.
Moreover, in his Friday prayer sermon last week in Tehran, Chairman of the Guardian Council Ayatollah [Ahmad] Jannati said, “I urge the popular forces in Basra, if they have something to say, to approach the government and sit down and discuss it” [in reference to the Mehdi Army’s supporters].
And herein lies the difference; in the case of Iraq, the Ayatollah urges listening to the government whereas in Lebanon Iran calls upon the world to heed the opposition. The reason is obvious; the Lebanese opposition is allied with Tehran.
Iran’s previous statements do not provide sufficient evidence to prove that Tehran endorses getting rid of Muqtada al Sadr. A few days ago, an Iranian source told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “security and stability have come about as a result of the Iraqi government’s control of the situation. Internal clashes weaken the Iraqi government and the Iranians do not want that because such developments would weaken al Maliki. This is why it is necessary to back the Iraqi government.”
He also added, “Muqtada’s policy is more detrimental to the Iraqi cause than it is useful.”
It is clear that we are faced with an American-Iranian agreement with regards to confronting Muqtada al Sadr since there is a convergence of interests; the strongest reason is the US’s desire to stabilize Iraq – at any cost – add to that a lack of understanding of the region and a failure to apprehend the difference between al Sadr and al Maliki.
Muqtada al Sadr, despite his shortcomings, remains an Arab while al Maliki notwithstanding his intelligence is Iranian-inclined. Obviously, Iran’s interest lies in extending its influence in Iraq through the incumbent government – not via an oppositional group whose only ability is to disrupt and delay. When Tehran achieves its domination; it will make no difference what the outcome of the elections in Iraq will be.
Establishing security in Iraq is a critical matter, however the danger of what is taking place today is that the Iraq government has decided to raise arms against a rival Shia group before seeking national reconciliation between the Iraqi people as a whole. This means that if al Maliki’s government succeeds in crushing al Sadr, it will not be keen to pursue reconciliation; rather al Maliki, and Iran following suit, will operate with the logic of the victorious – not the logic that seeks to achieve unity in Iraq.
First and foremost, we say peace upon the Arab identity of Iraq.