The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Thursday, April 29, 2004


              The End of Al-Sadr's Rebellion
Stratfor (registration required) has a very interesting and optimistic analysis of Al-Sadr's rebellion. Al-Sadr's mentor, Grand Ayatollah Kazem Hossein Haeri who is based in Iran, has unexpectedly withdrawn support for Al-Sadr's rebellion and attacks against Coalition forces. This is a very important move since it shows that the mainstream Shiites are distancing themselves from Al-Sadr, and that this uprising is coming to an end.

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.

Second, the statement makes clear that the portion of the Islamic leadership most tightly affiliated with al-Sadr feels he is overstepping his religious and political bounds. Haeri's statement could mean Iran will try to rein in al-Sadr; if they fail, they will not interfere when the United States moves against him.

Finally, and more speculatively, it is possible that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is nearing an agreement with the United States to defuse the situation in An Najaf. The recent U.S. agreement with the Sunnis of Al Fallujah is likely a key factor pushing al-Sistani's negotiations with Washington. Al-Sistani will not be outflanked by the Sunnis if he can help it, which is exactly why Washington made the Al Fallujah deal in the first place. Iran wants an Iraq that is whole, at peace, Shiite-controlled and Iranian influenced -- not one that resembles the wrong side of the gates of hell. They do, after all, live next door.

The best way to make the 30-year-old al-Sadr simmer down is to send him a blunt message from his mentor -- the same mentor whose backing allowed al-Sadr to advance his position to its current level.

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.


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