Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sadrists in Kadhimiya, and Supposedly Final Elections Results

Sadrist Antics Gaining Ground: Hazim Al-‘Araji, Muqtada Al-Sadr’s representative in the northern Baghdad suburb of Kadhimiya, gave an interesting Friday sermon yesterday. ‘Araji’s tone was characteristically militant, but interestingly, he was fanning the flames against the ‘terrorists,’ which is now a sobriquet for Sunnis. His beef with the Americans has been transformed from denouncing them as ‘occupiers’ to placing them in league with the ‘terrorists’ against the Shias. Yet again, the demagogues of the Sadr movement are seizing on a popular issues ahead of everyone else: they are selling themselves to the Shia middle and mercantile class as the sect’s ‘shock-troops’ against the Sunnis should a civil war break out, and they are succeeding in garnering sympathy (and funds) from demographics that used to shun them just a year ago.

The Sadrists never did well in Kadhimiya, even though they were represented by the scion of a ‘good Kadhmawi family,’ ‘Araji, and another, Raed Al-Saadi, who hails from one of the important clans that have called this town turned suburb as home in the last 200 years. A handsome and mild-mannered man, ‘Araji left Iraq in the late 1990s (even before Papa Sadr was killed) and found political asylum in Canada. He returned to Iraq after liberation, but was arrested by American troops twice. But Kadhimiya, a town where the shrine of two Shia Imams is just a tourist-trap to bring traffic to its bountiful bazaars, was naturally inclined against agitators. Save for some Communists and Islamists, Kadhimiya emerged out of the Ba’athist nightmare relatively unscathed; its families and clans just were not much for making trouble for the powerful.

So when this town begins to embrace the Sadrists, and these newly-welcomed trouble makers start making rousing speeches against the Sunnis, that is an important indicator as to how the Shia middle and mercantile class sees itself: imperiled. Kadhimiya is surrounded by two important bastions of the insurgency: the villages of the Mashahidda clan in Taji to the north, and the frothy soup of Sunni tribes that inhabit Abu Ghraib to the east. Across the river, its mirror image is the Sunni enclave of Adhamiya, another ‘shrine city.’ There are Palestinians in Hurriya to the south-east, and other mixed neighborhoods to the south. Thus, it sits uncomfortably as a Shia oasis amidst Sunnis. In the past, it used to mean Sunni business partners and Sunni relatives for the people of Kadhimiya, nowadays it means asking for trouble.

Results: These are the results that are supposed to come out tomorrow:

UIA: 128
Kurds: 53
Islamist Kurds: 4
Consensus: 44
Misha’an Jabouri: 3
Saleh Al-Mutlag: 11
Ayad Allawi: 25
Risaliyoun: 2
Turkumen: 1
Christians: 1
Yezidis: 1
Mithal Alusi: 1

These add up to 274 seats. Leaving one undetermined or maybe my source got something wrong. It means that the MARAMists (Consensus, Allawi, Mutlag, Jabouri) did not get a 1/3 + 1 of the parliamentary seats that would have enabled them to block the formation of a government or any changes to the constitution.

The Electoral Commission is supposed to announce these results tomorrow, even though we keep hearing conflicting messages about the timing. If this distribution is indeed what is going to be declared, then expect howls of indignation from the MARAMists, and howls of derision and "we told you so" from the jihadists: the Sunnis don't have veto authority over the political process, and this likely to anger quite a few.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention my favorite part about 'Araji's sermon: he was trying to spin the reasons as to why Muqtada ‘Man of the People’ Al-Sadr had been hobnobbing with the hated Saudi royalty while performing the Hajj. According to the Saudi Press Agency, Sadr had met Interior Minister Prince Nayif ‘I Hate Shias’ Bin Abdel-Aziz, and was received on January 10th by the official holder of the ‘Protector of the Wahhabis’ title himself: King Abdullah Bin Abdel-Aziz, in the company of the new head of Saudi Intelligence, Prince Miqrin Bin Abdel-Aziz.

"Muqtada my boy, but you know how hard it is to get building permits from the municipality...

‘Araji had this to say: Seyyid Muqtada was doing the proper Shia thing and was asking permission to rebuild the shrines of the Ahlul-Bayt in Medina’s Baqi’ Cemetery. Five (or is it six…?) of the Shia Imams are buried there, as well as Fatima, daughter of the Prophet and matriarch of the holy line, of which Muqtada himself is descended. Shias really deck out their shrines in style: gold, silver, expensive tiles, chandeliers—you name it. The Wahhabis on the other hand, tend to see all this as idolatry and saint worship, and they mark graves with only a nondescript stone. Those shrines in Baqi’ were demolished twice: once in 1803 and then again in 1924, or whenever the Wahhabis took control of Medina, which has been the case since the latter date. I don’t think the Saudi royals will comply. So is this a task for Sadr’s Mahdi Army? Taking back Medina, and reconstructing the shrines? He asked them nicely, but they had to do it the hard way.

A liberal democrat’s fantasy: the craziest Shias going all ape-shit against the craziest Sunnis, and somehow they all disappear in the melee. Ahhhh.


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