Friday, April 30, 2004
Muqtada al-Sadr's Iran-based mentor, Grand Ayatollah Kazem Hossein Haeri, no longer supports al-Sadr's uprising against U.S. forces in An Najaf. In an interview with AFP in Qom, Haeri's younger brother, Ayatollah Mohammed Hossein Haeri, said, "For us to approve of the activities of Muqtada al-Sadr, he would need to coordinate with our office in An Najaf, something he has not been doing. Neither Ayatollah Haeri nor any other Iraqi religious leader has declared jihad, so one cannot attack the occupation forces -- unless they attack Iraqis, then they have the right to defend themselves."
This is the first clear statement separating the mainstream Shiite leadership from the actions of al-Sadr, whose forces are engaged in a standoff with U.S. forces in An Najaf.
At its core, the statement signals that the Iranians still want to work with the United States in managing Iraq. This is no small achievement for Washington. Since Iraq's population is majority Shia, any permanent resolution in Iraq will be colored by U.S.-Iranian relations.
And here's the even more hopeful conclusion:
In short, this move demonstrates that Iran -- despite all posturing -- continues to work with the United States to attain its goals of a unified Iraq dominated by its Arab Shiite allies. While Iran and the Iraqi Shia might be able to achieve most of what they had hoped for, the real winner in this latest round is the United States. Sunnis are patrolling Sunnis in Al Fallujah, Iranian Shia are reining in Iraqi Shia, and for the first time in weeks, there is a serious possibility that no major combat will take place anywhere in the country.
This is as positive on Iraq as Stratfor has been in weeks. The last sentence represents a very bold prediction -- we will soon see how right, or wrong, it is.