Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Muqtada Can Speak in Full Sentences?

Who knew? But apparently Muqatada Al-Sadr put up a stellar performance when he recently received his fellow mullah and erstwhile adversary Abdel-Aziz Al-Hakim (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution) in his home in Najaf, so much so that Sadr’s people felt compelled to leak a recording (not clear if audio AND visual…) to several news outlets, and the transcript of their meeting ended-up in yesterday’s Al-Hayat newspaper.

This is was an important moment in the annals of the Sadr-Hakim rivalry; ask any prominent Sadrist "who killed Muqtada’s father in February 1999?” and the answer would be “the Iranians and the Hakim family”. Of course, it is politically useful to blame Saddam’s regime for the highway shoot-out, but everything in the regime’s archives suggests that they were caught off-guard by what happened. And then there is that little spat that occurred last month when Sadr’s people tried to re-open their offices in ‘Old Najaf’, but were stoned and fired-upon, and this quickly escalated into an all-out fight between the Sadrists and SCIRI across Iraq. BTW: it wasn’t the Hakims who whipped-up the crowd, but rather Muhammad Ridha Sistani, the powerful son and ‘office-manager’ of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

But Muqtada (sometimes derided as ‘Quday’, a-la ‘Uday’ and ‘Qusay’) sounds downright sober and somewhat witty; coming off as ‘patriotic’ (that is, anti-‘occupation’) and knowledgeable about Islamic jurisprudence.

Muqtada: not just another pretty face...

Muqtada dominated the conversation, but he was stumped when Abdel-Aziz suggested that Ayatollah Sistani would obligate the faithful to participate in the next elections.

Muqtada the Coherent, as opposed to Mr. Dimwit? Is he on a new set of meds? Or is he indeed the Mahdi, or Messiah, as his inner circle have been whispering for about two years now. Time to hit Papa Sadr’s book, Al-Ghaybah Al-Kubra, and keep searching for clues…