"..the extent to which he has become marginalised was demonstrated last week when fighting broke out in Diwaniya between Iraqi soldiers and al-Sadr’s Mehdi army. With dozens dead, al-Sistani’s appeals for calm were ignored. Instead, the provincial governor had to travel to Najaf to see al-Sadr, who ended the fighting with one telephone call.
Al-Sistani’s aides say that he has chosen to stay silent rather than suffer the ignominy of being ignored. Ali al-Jaberi, a spokesman for the cleric in Khadamiyah, said that he was furious that his followers had turned away from him and ignored his calls for moderation.
Asked whether Ayatollah al-Sistani could prevent a civil war, Mr al-Jaberi replied: "Honestly, I think not. He is very angry, very disappointed."" Telegraph
An interesting situation in Iraq just now:
-We have on the one hand the Sunni Iraqi Islamic and secularist insurgents waging their war against the coalition and the Shia.
-We have on the other hand, the international Jihadis of "al-Qa’ida in Iraq" fighting for a Utopian Islamic state according to their belief as to what that might be. (fat chance)
-We have Sistani declaring himself out of the process.
-We have the three major Shia factions fighting each other for control of the "rump" state of Iraq.
-We have the Kurds running ads on TV here saying that they are "the other Iraq."
-We have the Kurds declaring Kurdistan to be an inappropriate place to fly the Iraqi flag.
Ah! We have the coalition forces in the middle of all this. Let’s see–What was John Warner saying about a re-authorization?
I would be interested in your comments on the following ( as reported by Juan Cole):
‘ In other developments, the head of a major Iraqi sect of Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam that had previously rejected violence against U.S.-led coalition forces, declared holy war on American troops. The leader, Sheik Mohammed al-Qadiri, said his sect would form a new group, the Battalions of Sh[e]ikh Abdul Qadir al-Gaillani, and join the insurgency.
“We will not wait for the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade to enter our houses and kill us,” said Ahmed al-Soffi, a Sufi leader in the western city of Fallujah, referring to the country’s major Shiite militias. “We will fight the Americans and the Shiites who are against us.”
Two bombings in Kirkuk underlined the collapse of security in that city. Al-Zaman says that the violence in Kirkuk every day during the past 3 days is unprecedented in its severity. Kurdish Peshmerga control the city, and the governing council is being boycotted by its own Arab and Turkoman members. A bombing of the takyah or Sufi center left 9 dead and 53 wounded. The Sufi center belonged to the family of Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq. (I presume that this center is for the Naqshbandi Sufi order, which predominates among Kurds.) In a separate incident, the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan were attacked. Al-Zaman is speaking of the “collapse” of security “in Kirkuk.”
It seems that there also is a Sufi dimension to what is going on in Iraq.
Not much has been said or writen about this. I suspect that this is because there is so little comprehension of Sufism among the American authorities.
Iraq has always been a major cente of Sufi influence and it is not surprising that when their communities are threatened the Sufi Tariqas decide to act.
This is yet another reflection of the ongoing disintegration of the country. pl
Sufi orders are responsible for the creation of at least two Muslim states: Iran and Libya.
Sufis are not dead-dog liberals-anyone who thinks that does not know the history of these orders.
Is the Iraqi branch of AQ anything larger than a miniscule actor when compared to Sadr’s Mahdi or SCIRI or the ex-Baathists or Barzani’s and Talabani’s Kurdish organizations?
It seems the Kurds are now making their move and they must be well prepared with all the help from Galbraith, et al. The question is how will Turkey respond? Or have they been “bought”? Will Sadr or SCIRI even care?
I would presume that Iran will be very careful to avoid any pretexts and would be rather restrained. Although I have read reports of artillery fire into Kurdish areas from the Iranian border areas.
I am curious what your thinking is on possible “spillover” – Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Saudi and Iran as the Iraqi disintegration proceeds apace.
And this tidbit from today’s WaPo:
BAGHDAD, Sept. 2 — A coalition of 300 Iraqi tribal leaders on Saturday demanded the release of Saddam Hussein so he could reclaim the presidency and also called for armed resistance against U.S.-led forces.
The clan chieftains, most of them Sunni Arabs, included the head of the 1.5 million-member al-Obeidi tribe, said they planned to hold rallies in Sunni cities throughout the country to insist that Hussein be freed and that the charges against him and his co-defendants be dropped.
Thanks once again for covering the important material while the “professional” media are throwing pixie dust. Sistani withdrawing from politics is a huge story even if his position was somewhat diminished by his attempted moderation.
A few years ago, the NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, CNN, etc. were all calling Sistani, “the most important man in Iraq”.
When he anrgily exits the scene, because American failure to provide a timetable has obviated his authority, followers are abandoning him to follow violent men who offer revenge and protection, and his nation is about to be ingulfed in a civil war he cannot prevent, that isn’t really worth much of a mention in American media.
I guess he didn’t use the proper words, like democracy, sectarian discord, and astounding progress.
Our press has decided that the capture of the approximately 127th capture of the bad guy whose capture will end Al Quaeda, deserves all the banner headlines. I think we keep capturing this guy and letting him go, so we can capture him again every two weeks and report the death of Al Quaeda.
Since the government has had this “top leader” of Al Quaeda under arrest for some time now, there is no chance that our government has released would release this news to hide what Ayatolla Sistani said, is there Colonel Lang? That would be shabby and deceitful.
With all the historical analogies going on I’d like to posit one. If Winston Churchill had decided that America had screwed up WWII so badly that Germany was certain to win. Imagine that “the indespensable man” walked away on the same day that American troops had captured some unknown German general,today’s headlines would read.
“Americans Capture Top Nazi General…Is Germany on The Ropes?…British Leader Voices Complaints(see page 12)…
Is there any clean truth left in this mess anywhere?
Thanks for listening, and thanks again to the Col and Juan Cole for a taste of reality.
I think that the regional war we have triggered is likely to be fought out in Iraq to the extent that the Israelis do not stir the pot too much.
The Sunnis will get a lot of support but nobody wants the war to spread to their territory and with the exception of Syria and Lebanon the Sunnis are in charge everywhere. pl
I am concerned about a Somalia-type denouement.
If we attack Iran, Iran will make sure we don’t get any tankers of gas to Baghdad.
So then our forces are isolated, and if they are attacked en masse, do they have the gas for a fighting retreat?
1. Adding to this mess, I seem to recall a blurb from a New York Times article recently that said that Sadr is expanding his militias so as to include social services. Maybe this is old news. But if true, and the trend continues, then what little authority or respect this nat’l gov’t has with the people sure seems on its last gasp.
Which brings me to:
2. Just what IS the Iraqi gov’t doing these days for the people? I read the Advisor reports shared with us by the Colonel….those reports discuss much progress in troop training, some law enforcement, and border security. Ok, fine.
But if a gov’t isn’t providing all the other things the population wants and needs…doesn’t seem like the population would have any confidence in said gov’t. From what I understand, the gov’t can’t even keep the electricity going 24/7 in Baghdad alone. So…I guess that more and more militias are in the future.
And exactly what are our soldiers to do about all this? Serve as target practice for all these various groups? I have a great deal of pride in our soldiers over there. They are doing their duty. I’m not so sure how well our own gov’t is doing its duty to lead them intelligently.
Recent developments surrounding Imam Ali Al-Sistani’s marginalization and demoralization deserve in-depth commentary in their own right, but for now I’d just like to pick up on Pat Lang’s passing mention of Republican Senator John Warner’s tepid and timorous “Congressional Oversight” trial baloon.
Yes, another of our self-styled “representatives” (who apparently slept through the entire American War on Vietnam) just can’t bring himself to demand that we end this needless War on Iraq the same way we ended the last of our nation’s dreadful executive branch misadventures: namely, by (1) forcing the resignation of the (Vice)President who wouldn’t volunarily end it; (2) revoking the conflict’s legal authority; and (3) cuttiing off its funding. Only three things to do, plain and simple; yet Warner can only utter a pathetic peep about one of them. Better than nothing, I suppose, but nowhere near where we need to go — and in one hell of a hurry if we want to avoid a catastophe for our now-leaderless country.
I understand that Deputy Dubya’s father (the earthly one) has asked James Baker III to gather up some “wise men” (outside our government, of course) to try and figure out how to fix things. I sure hope they hurry.
Just curious. I am assuming the three major shia factions are: SCIRI, al-Sadr, & Dawa. There seems to be some shia bit players developing
Clashes continue in Mosul
Azzaman, September 1, 2006
Colonel…any developments on how the coalition forces would be evacuated in the case their supply lines are cut off? If sectarian violence cannot be contained, that is becoming a very real threat to the safety of the troops that are in Iraq.
Tch, tch–Its a good thing that Saddam has been kept alive–He’s still there if we want him to take over. Maybe he’s learned his lesson, and he’ll be a good boy, this time.
The “sadrists” (term which I believe refers not to Moqtada himself but to his father?) also include the Fadhila (Virtue) party which is not part of Moqtada al-Sadr’s organisation, it’s yet another Shi’ite religious party complete with local power-politics and militia, very strong in Basra.
I also have the impression – confirmed by the latest DoD report – that one of the main problems with the Mahdi Army militia is that it’s huge but not centrally-controlled, lacks an efficient political/military command structure – so Moqtada, although adored as a religious-political figure, doesn’t really control the local-level groups and leaders, who often act and react so impulsively that Moqtada has to intervene afterwards with proclamations etc. to try to cool them down, get them back under control?
From what I’ve read, n Maysan province (Marsh Arabs) and possibly elsewhere in the south too, Shi’ite tribal leaders are also very powerful, not always compliant with “party orders” from Baghdad?
Sistani No Longer Has Power to Save Iraq From Civil War
While reading Helena Cobban’s Just World News blog entries for September 4, 2006, I came across a reference to what she called “the important piece of reporting that was in The Sunday Telegraph (London) yesterday [September 3, 2006] about the…
RE: “The “sadrists” (term which I believe refers not to Moqtada himself but to his father?)… Shi’ite tribal leaders are also very powerful”
That is correct. Sadr-ism refers to Moqtada’s father who was martyred. He wrote an epistle called “Tribal Jurisprudence” where he argued that tribal leaders had authority under the Koran to decide issues of religious law and enact appropriate punishment. In contrast, Sistani (and virtually all other clerics) assert that only those who have been religiously trained and certified can decide these issues. The Sadrists are tribally-alligned and oppose al-Dawa and Badr who are Iranian-alligned. Many Sadrists go so far as to assert that the religious shrines (some with huge funds) should be controlled by Iraqi-born clerics not Iranian-born clerics such as Sistani.
I realize that many in the Intell Com. feel burned by this Admin. and get some satisfaction from seeing them stew in their own makings, but our kids are getting maimed and our country is being diminished on the world stage. Its time for certain fellows, either active or retired, to step up to the plate and cut a Brezinski-like deal that will allow us to exit ‘gracefully’ our overt effort and return to containment and those covert/proxy MOs that brought down an empire — if we can corral that menace, we can certainly take out this hodgepodge, but only if we play it smart and stop stumbling around like a drunken monster. Sure you have to lay-down with some nasties, but once the deal is made, everyone else including the POTUS will have no choice but to go along for the ride, and eventually, the nasties eliminate each other. We need to take Naji’s “Management of Savagery”
turn it on its head, and facilitate their self-inflicted demise.
Maybe CTC is starting to get it –
But, its going to take someone you know to cut the deal.
An ambassador to France and the United States once told me why his country had refused America’s offer of military assistance. “If the Americans come,” he said,” they will just draw an arbitrary line through a temporary problem and make it permanent.” I liked that sentence so much that I made it the basis for a poem (“Boobie Counter Insurgency”) that began:
If offered help you’d best refuse
For if you should relent
They’ll draw an arbitrary line
Through promblems transient
And complicate them all so as
To make them permanent
Expatriate Shiites like Ahmed Chalabi and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani either did not know of this wise admonition or foolishly thought they could just invite the American military to leave Iraq after it got rid of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni Baathist supporters for them. Instead, they both find themselves shoved aside while Americans go about drawing their arbitrary, permanent line of “democracy”-vs-“terrorism” right through the heart of temporary Iraqi political problems that have little to do with either.
At any rate, when I heard several years ago about the immaculate imam’s refusal to even grant an audience to the infidel Americans who died daily doing his dirty work, I began to take a rather unromantic view of the man Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey called “an Iranian citizen who can’t even vote in Iraqi elections.” Then I started entertaining irreverent thoughts, like: “I wouldn’t send a dog to die for someone who considered himself too good to pet the dog.” Now I feel compelled to mortalize in terza rima sonnets the sulking mullah’s predictable predicament, as the vicious dog’s absent owner clings desperately to power in his own country far far away. So for fans of Dante’s Inferno, I offer:
“Too Good to Pet the Dog”
(Lines 532-559 of “The Misfortune Teller,” an epic poem in progress)
The Persian mullah meditating means
To rule in fact without the needless name
Sets up his throne behind the curtain screens
In grim Iraq on fire with Allah’s flame
With problems plenty on his pious plate
Like how this giant Yankee dog to tame
So that it bites the former Baathist state
But not the seniors of the Shiite sect
Who have their own assassination slate
In case beguiled believers don’t elect
Militia ethnic cleansers all agog
Submissive to august imams select
Whose fatwa edicts set the mobs to flog
Themselves — and girls in gym gear out to jog
Yet still the Yankee army cur commands
Due caution from imams who use such mutts
And value keeping fingers, toes, and hands
Avoiding getting bitten on their butts
For even though the President now pimps
Our troops to serve as mercenary sluts
The barking bombers hover in their blimps
With plans to blast Mahomet’s “safe-house” bed
The mangy ‘Murcan mongrel snarls and limps
The trapped, frustrated infidel sees red
In Persian gears a captive canine cog
Kept outside so it can’t defile the shed
Its deadly beat a daily grinding slog
For Persian priests too good to pet the dog
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006
I take exceptions to your turn of phrase “Persian Priest” which I persume to refer to Ayatullah Sistani.
His position does not, in any way, shape, or form correspond to a priest.
Closest analogue is a Jewish Rabbi but even that is not quite correct. He is a Doctor of Theoretical Jurisprudence.
Additionally, why are you so hostile to a tradition of which you clearly do not know much?
I’ll gladly engage your disagreements with me even though you chose to totally ignore the salient point of my post/poem: namely, the blatant interference in secular political affairs by “religious” personalities — call them by whatever presumptuous title you prefer. And please, in all fairness, acknowledge that the Persian personage in question did indeed try to practice “politics” in Iraq (where he can’t even vote) and when he didn’t get his way then chose to “retire from politics” — in essence picking up his Muslim marbles and going home. “If you lay down with dogs,” so the old saying goes, “you get up with fleas.”
First. In addition to two undergraduate degrees — one in Economics and another in Japanese — I also hold a master’s degree in religious studies (with an emphasis in Buddhism). I had not much interest in “religion” before undertaking this course work and have even less after completing it. If I absolutely cannot avoid “religious” people, I guess I’d prefer to associate with Buddhists; but otherwise, I understand what Voltaire meant when he built an addition to his house and answered inquiries about it by saying: “If you meet religious people, tell them I’ve built a church. If you meet decent people, tell them I’ve built a theater.”
In view of the above comments, then, feel free to accuse me of a much broader “hostility” to religion than just the minor branch you apparenly consider viable. I think Thomas Jefferson once put it best by speaking of an “eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man” — and no one has ever discovered a greater intellectual tyranny than religion. See, for example, the “Garden-of-Eden/Tree-of-Knowledge” myth. See, for example, the “Tower of Babel” myth. See, for example, the myth of a guy named “Abram” who “fell down flat upon his face” in front of a delusional apparition that then “promised” him a third syllable for his name, thus making him A-bra-ham, on the condition that the poor terrified wretch promise — several times over — to cut the skin off the end of his penis. Etc. Do I make myself and my disdain for this barbaric, anti-intellectual crap completely clear?
Second. As an American, I believe in the complete and total separation of church and state as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection under the law.” That means I don’t support apartheid regimes based on the presumed superiority of one race or religion over any others. This means, of course, that I did not support the White Afrikaaner state of South Africa and do not support the apartheid “Jewish” state of Israel. This means that I do not support the “Islamic” state of Iran. This means that I do not support the Fundamentalist Christian state of Republican Party America. (For more on this latter abomination, see Kevin Phillips’ frightening and informative book “American Theocracy.”)
At any rate, I consider myself an equal-opportunity abuser of ALL religions that attempt to interfere in the secular affairs of modern political institutions. I don’t consider Shiite Islam any worse than other religions in this regard — certainly no worse than Christianity or Judaism — but I don’t consider it any better, either. And if I have left out of consideration any additional favored religions, sects, or cults (or “shared public neuroses,” as a Buddhist monk acquaintance once called them) then please supply me with the awful ugly particulars and I’ll happily oblige with the necessary hostility. As I once put it in another poem:
The concept of the single god
Leaves little more to mock
Yet charlatans consider it
Their tawdry trade and stock
No worse idea ever crept
From underneath a rock
Getting back to the actual point of my post/poem, however, I repeat that I object to the Iranian (which word means “Aryan” or “Noble” in the original Brahman Sanskrit) Persian person or persons who seek to manipulate the American military into killing their Sunni Muslim “brothers” for them because they either cannot or will not do this foul deed themselves. I believe I also mentioned the corrupt Shiite Iraqi banker Ahmed Chalabi in this regard. Somehow, I can’t help associating him and the mullah al-Sistani since their objectives and political machinations seem so much alike to me.
Finally, I do not in any way excuse the outrageous and unconscionable behavior of my own government and military in causing the Iraqi people so much widespread misery. As a Vietnam Veteran I think that any American politician who had anything to do with initiating or authorizing the invasion and occupation of Iraq should resign in disgrace for their complete and utter lack of judgment. (You would think that not a one of them had ever heard of the “Gulf of Tonkin” incident or the American War on Vietnam.) Personally, I would prefer that these moral and ethical eunuchs commit mass ritual Seppuku (or “hara-kiri,” in the vulgar Japanese) by publicly sitting cross-legged on the Capitol steps and slitting open their bellies, Samurai style. Failing that appropriate act of atonement, I suppose I would settle for the traditional American tar-and-feather treatment, followed by running them out of town hung upside down dangling from a rail. Failing that, I suppose, in a democratic Republic, we can only “throw the bastards out” of office. They don’t belong in the leadership of ANY government, least of all America’s.
So there you have it. I don’t believe in “patriotism” because when you wrap George W. Bush in the Stars and Stripes, you don’t get a patriotic politician — you get a shit-stained flag. By the same token, I don’t believe in “political religion” because when you mix the two, you don’t get holy politics, you get hellish religion. Best to keep these things separate and distinct. Everywhere. At all times. Let the good Persian Doctor of Theoretical Jurisprudence ponder these “eternal verities,” recant of his medieval religious recidivism, and retire to join the modern, secular, scientific world — thus deserving the ancient and perfectly honorable title of “citizen.”
Mike Murry, B.A., B.A., M.A.
It is clear to me that you, like a majority of Western people, are very uncomfortable with the mixing of religion and politics.
The secularist project in the West could at least be theoretically pinned on the well-known saying of Jesus regarding that subject.
An analogous foundation does not exist in Islam; Islam and Politics cannot even be theoretically separated. The pursuit of a secular politics project is a chimera when it comes to Muslims. All such so-called orders are based on bayonets in every single Muslim state that you might care to name.
I also think that, as you stated in your posting, “abuser of ALL religions”. I respectfully suggest then that you are refusing to comprehend the significance of religious ideas in the lives of men. And I submit to you that you are carrying on the anti-religion project of the Western European tradition that gave us both the so-called Enlightenment and the subsequent horros of WWI and WWII.
As for your remarks regarding “who seek to manipulate the American military into killing their Sunni Muslim “brothers” for them because they either cannot or will not do this foul deed themselves” you are missing the past. In 1984, Iran was on the verge of defeating Iraq. But certain well-known states preferred Saddam and helped him to the hilt. Left to his own devices, Saddam would have been finsihed by 1985.
As for the US policies in the Persian Gulf and Levant all I can say that they seem to be rather incoherent.
I have heard, for example, that there were several days of celeberations in many (but not all) UAE cities after 9/11. That college students came to their class rooms jubilant.
And now US is proposing to protect UAE against Iran; the only country whose population did not join in, some of whose citizens held a candle light vigil for the 9/11 victims.
There is also this: the Sunni insurgency in Iraq is supported by the Sunni populations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan: all nominally friendly governments to the United States.
Consider also the Turkish movie “Valley of the Wolves”: Americans and Jews are kidnapping Iraq’s children for their organs. It has been a very popular movie in Turkey.
And all this, is just the tip of the ice-berg of incoherence.
Strange chap Spengler:
Sistani frequently was described as a “moderate” by Western media, which seems strange given the all-encompassing character of his religious prescriptions. The ayatollah’s instructions follow the faithful from mosque to bedroom to bathroom. He was not at all a moderate in religion, but a thinker to the extreme right of the most fanatical integralism the Western world has ever seen. But as the spiritual leader of Mesopotamian Arabs, he resisted sacrificing them to the imperial ambitions of neighboring Persia, unlike the opportunist Muqtada al-Sadr. Now he has abandoned his political mission. Unable to protect his Shi’ite followers against Sunni attacks, and deeply frustrated by his inability to influence events, Sistani reportedly told his staff, “I will not be a political leader anymore. I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters.”