London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A Iraqi political source in the city of Al-Najaf has stated that Al-Sadr movement’s Leader Muqtada al-Sadr “is preparing to be Iraq’s Hasan Nasrallah and play a major influential role” and warned that “partisan struggles for the political leadership of Iraq’s Shiites will take place in Al-Najaf, Karbala, and other central Euphrates and southern cities.”
The source which spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity by telephone from Al-Najaf said that “the leader of Al-Sadr movement is holding in his family’s home in Al-Hananah quarter, intensive meetings with leaders of his movement in an effort to put their affairs in order and resolve some conflicts and struggles inside it, especially between those wearing turbans and those not wearing them (Mullahs and non-mullahs). The first are asserting that they are the ones who protected the Trend and its permanence while the others believe they were the ones credited with making the Trend a political movement.”
The source went on to say that discussions during the meeting also focused on the removal of some the traditional leaders whom Al-Sadr believes are undisciplined or not in tune with the times, especially as some symbols of the movement have yet to appear in Al-Najaf since Al-Sadr’s return.
The political source went on to say: “Al-Sadr returned to Iraq arrogant with power after having left Al-Najaf in secret for fear of being arrested by American forces. But his movment today has 40 seats in the Iraqi House of Representatives and seven ministers in the government. This hastened his return to play an influential political role that is to a large extent similar to the role of Hasan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to what those close to Al-Sadr are asserting.”
The source pointed out that “the attention the Iraqi political leaders are paying Al-Sadr is giving him stronger impetus” and referred to “the visit by President Jalal Talabani, leader of the Democratic Union of Kurdistan, to Al-Sadr in his house in Al-Najaf and the telephone contact Dr. Iyad Allawi, the former Iraqi prime minister and Al-Iraqiya List leader, had with him the day before yesterday.”
The source noted that, “leaders of the traditional Shiite parties are not happy with Al-Sadr’s return to Al-Najaf, the capital of Shiite influence.” It added that “hot political struggles between the Shiite parties for control of the Shiite influence are going to surface through events, especially between Al-Sadr Trend and Al-Dawa Party, which is led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, on one hand and between the Trend and the Islamic Supreme Council [IISC] which is led by Ammar al-Hakim on the other hand.” It warned that “the struggle between Al-Sadr Trend and the IISC is going to be more public due to the historic struggle for control of Al-Najaf between Al-Sadr and Al-Hakim’s families.”
The source believes that “Muqtada al-Sadr will not forget his traditional enemies easily or the battles the current Prime Minster Nuri Al-Maliki led against his Trend in which many of his supporters were killed or arrested. Hence, the struggle between Al-Sadr and Al-Maliki will not be confined only to the partisan one between Al-Sadr Trend and Al-Dawa Party but personal aspects and settlement of accounts might be involved which will weaken both sides, particularly as Al-Dawa Party considers itself as having greater Shiite influence in Iraq and does not accept anything less than that. This Shiite party even sees itself as the only political representative of Iraq’s Shiites following the reduced influence of IISC in the recent legislative elections and its failure to obtain important ministries in Al-Maliki’s second government.” The source does not rule out the possibility of “Al-Sadr starting his battle with Al-Maliki by criticizing the government’s performance and through his ministers and parliamentary deputies so as to weaken the prime minister’s position without triumphing over him” and pointed out that the “coming months will see noticeable tensions between the Shiite parties’ leaders and the people of Al-Najaf are fearful of Al-Sadr Trend’s calm before the storm.”
However, Baha al-Aaraji, the leader in the Trend who is close to Muqtada, has said “Iraq is not Lebanon. What applies there cannot be applied here. In his speeches and statements, Muqtada al-Sadr stresses the need to stay away from weapons and demands that any issue should be resolved politically.” He pointed out that the Trend leader “is expecting the government to provide the services to the Iraqi people and to get the American occupation forces out. He will back the government and give it the chance even though he had said it was weak. We will comment if his demands, which are for the Iraqis, are not fulfilled.” He told Asharq Al-Awsat “there is a roadmap that is not yet clear and things will become clearer after “fortieth” celebration which marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Al-Hussein, when large meetings will be held.”