The struggle for power between al-Sadr and al-Maliki: which currents will win in Iraq?
The struggle for power between al-Sadr and al-Maliki: which currents will win in Iraq?
The last tweet of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, confirmed the authenticity of the audio leaks that were transmitted about a secret meeting of al-Maliki with some Islamist activists (Shiites) in Iraq. News of these leaks made headlines in newspapers and communication sites across Iraq, and contained alleged threats against al-Sadr and his followers and hints of a political coup. The leaked audio recording, which is now before the Iraqi judiciary to verify its authenticity, also included accusations of Al-Sadr and his group of murder and kidnapping. It also included personal accusations of Mr. Al-Sadr that he was carrying out a British scheme led by Massoud Barzani to overthrow the Shiites in Iraq and hand over power to the Sunnis.
In the leak, al-Maliki was heard saying: “Iraq is on the verge of a brutal war, from which no one will emerge unless the project of Muqtada al-Sadr, Massoud Barzani, and Muhammad al-Halbousi … and if necessary, I will attack Najaf.” He was also heard indicating that he had fighters ready to fight, while the activists whose voice was heard in the leaked recording promised him to place thousands of fighters under his command to carry out the alleged coup against everyone, including some of his allies in the framework whom Al-Maliki accused of cowardice and that they were purchased by the Speaker of Parliament Al-Halbousi (Sunni). Al-Maliki also promised those young men he was talking to to arrange a meeting for them with the Iranians to support them financially and morally and make them ready for battle.
Thus, al-Sadr’s response to these leaks constitutes a new chapter in the series of ongoing political excitement in Iraq between two powerful political figures, and indicates that the escalating struggle for power in the country between these two forces is now entering a new stage.
Al-Sadr’s tweet, in which Maliki’s political allies as well as his tribe demanded to abandon him, and Maliki himself demanded to completely resign from politics, is a precedent in the history of the political conflict in Iraq since the establishment of the political system there after the US invasion in 2003. It is not only a political precedent. Indeed, the general confirmation of the authenticity of what was stated in the leaked recording will have important repercussions on the political arena beyond the removal of al-Maliki, who was one of the most important political players in Iraq during the past two decades.
It is expected that this crisis will lead to a major shake-up within the largest and oldest Shiite political party (the Dawa Party), as well as it will open the door wide for the leaders of the second Shiite Islamic line to replace the traditional leaders that took the lead in the past nineteen years, just as I expected in an article Ex-Washington Institute two years ago.
Al-Sadr’s tweet also came just three days after the two-million-strong show of force by his supporters during Friday prayers on July 15, whose sermon read on behalf of Al-Sadr contained ten important messages to the Iraqi political class. However, the eleventh message – and the most important in my opinion – which was not read but understood by everyone was: I have willingly relinquished my parliamentary majority which my republic granted me through the last ballot boxes, so do not force me to use my popular power that you see before you to turn the tables on you. The framework coalition, or at least some of its forces, seem to have ignored this message.
Perhaps most importantly, the recent leaks, which al-Maliki denied their authenticity, posed threats not only to the Sadrist movement, but also to all partners in the political process, Sunnis and Kurds, as they questioned the credibility of al-Maliki and his allies within the coordinating framework and their ability to take fateful decisions without the approval of Iran and its Revolutionary Guards, and thus represented These leaks are an opportunity for Mr. Al-Sadr to consolidate his current’s victory and grip on the political process.
The most dangerous thing about the leaked recording, which Mr. Sadr seems to have cut off his authenticity, even if others question his credibility, is that al-Maliki was trying to seek the help of new forces from the armed factions that want to turn the tables on the Sadrist movement and all the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political allies. If these leaks are proven true, this will mean that al-Maliki was planning a political coup with the help of new armed factions declaring him the only leader in Iraq! It is certain that this coup, if it occurs, will target the Sadrists first and the entire political process in Iraq secondly.
Now that those leaks have surfaced and Sadr has decided to tackle the issue head-on, the two forces are facing each other. And if al-Sadr succeeded in killing this coup, this turn of events will have several repercussions on the ongoing conflict between the various currents of Shiite political Islam that have emerged in Iraq over the past several decades since 2003, given that the Islamic “Dawa Party” led by al-Maliki and the current Al-Sadr, the two most prominent Shiite Islamic political forces in Iraq at the present time.
It is worth noting that the parties of Shiite political Islam do not differ much from the parties of Sunni political Islam in their general orientation, despite their differences in details. On both sides, there are two general lines of political Islam that struggle in more than one country, namely, transnational political Islam, and national or local political Islam, both of which fall under various other subgroups.
In this context, the (Iranian) trend of Wilayat al-Faqih and the Iraqi Dawa Party represent the transnational Shiite political Islam line (parallel to the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood), which believes that one should not wait for the appearance of the absent Imam to establish an Islamic state, and that it is legally permissible to establish that state. during the absence of the Imam. Thus, the interim salvation of Muslims lies in the establishment of a religious (Shiite) state.
However, these two trends (Iraqi and Iranian) differ in their leadership orientations due to their different conditions of origin. The Iranians make the Wali al-Faqih the leader, while the Dawa Party was founded on the elected collective political leadership. As for the second main line of Shiite political Islam, it focuses on spreading the principles of Islam in the state in which they are located and their involvement in the local political process, without a text on the establishment of the great Islamic state as a final goal. In this, they follow the Najaf line of Shiite jurisprudence, which rejects the guardianship of the jurist and heavy interference in politics. The Sadrist line, the stream of wisdom and virtue, and some religious groups in other countries represent this line of local Shiite political Islam.
Based on this understanding of the orientations of Shiite Islam, it is a mistake to understand the dispute that surfaced between Mr. Al-Sadr and Al-Maliki as just a personal dispute without further repercussions on the Iraqi political scene. Although the conflict certainly has a significant personal dimension, stemming from the Battle of Basra, when Maliki’s US-backed forces attacked Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces in 2008, the current struggle between these two parties for political power is ultimately linked to its nature. with broader political issues, both in Iraq and abroad. The conflict between the representatives of these two main currents also raises the question of whether it will be the international line of Shiite Islam (both dawah and velayat-e faqih), or the line of national or local Shiite political Islam that will become the dominant political trend in Iraq.
As an expert in Iraqi public opinion, it seems to me that there is clearer and greater support in the Iraqi street for the national Iraqi Shiite tendencies, as opposed to those that cross Iraq’s borders and its interests and concerns. And if we take the last elections that took place in 2021 as an indicator of the extent of the Iraqi (Shiite) street’s support for both trends, the transnational trend represented by the framework forces in most of them except for small currents in it, and the Iraqi trend, then it can be seen clearly greater support for the national trend.
In this context, figures based on the data of the Iraqi Electoral Commission may contribute to revealing these dynamics, as these data showed that the majority of Shiites eligible to vote (up to 70-75% of them) did not participate in the elections, and that a proportion of those who voted for the forces of the coordination framework that includes The coalitions (State of Law, Al-Fateh, Rights and Ataa and the National Contract), which represent the transnational Shiite Islamist trend, did not exceed only 30% of the total proportion of Shiites who participated (only 25-30% of the total Iraqi Shiites) in the elections. As for the local Iraqi Shiite Islamist trend, it won 30% of the vote, and independent civilians got about 40% of the Shiite vote.
It is clear that the majority of Shiite voters chose either civil current or national political Islam candidates, noting that the World Values Survey confirms that only about 35% of Iraqi Shiites want Islamic rule in the first place (whether it is from the transnational or the transnational faction). Iraqi).
Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that the outcome of the confrontation between Al-Sadr and Al-Maliki will further weaken the trend of transnational political Islam, which does not have a large Iraqi popular base. As for the political leadership, what will result from the current struggle for power will clearly indicate the direction that most affects the Iraqi political decision. If Mr. Al-Sadr is able to impose what he wanted, it is because the transnational Shiite political Islam project will face a major setback, and the Wilayat al-Faqih project will lose one of its most important foundations in Iraq. Even as the Dawa Party remains as one of the main players, its influence and influence will suffer a setback that will likely lead to a comprehensive review, and possibly a new split within the party, which has already suffered from an internal schism since al-Abadi withdrew from it a few years ago.