Shia Cleric Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr in pro-Reform Push in Iraq
Murad Makhmudov, Sawako Uchida and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The endless suffering in Iraq since outside meddling destabilized this nation to the core and created a vacuum for Sunni Takfiri sectarian groups, is now witnessing a fresh momentum from the Shia holy cleric Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr. Indeed, the maturing al-Sadr is focused on moving with the times because he seeks a new invigorated Iraq based on the natural reality of this nation state. In other words, the days of sectarianism should be left behind and instead political reforms should lead the way for a revitalized central state.
Of course, with Iraq being blighted by ISIS (Islamic State – IS) and facing ethnic issues in relation to the Kurds and other minorities, then central forces and a new Iraq is essential. In the past al-Sadr believed in the need for natural self-defense because of daily terrorist and sectarian attacks that targeted the Shia. This in turn unleashed sectarian bitterness on all sides because daily terrorist attacks swept away unifying forces, despite the illusion of a government system.
However, the new al-Sadr understands the need to turn to the next stage, whereby the Iraqi nation state and political reforms are essential inclusive forces. Therefore, with endless waiting for real change it is clear that al-Sadr is upping the ante. This can be seen by a call to his supporters to camp out in the Green Zone area of Baghdad until real reforms begin to take hold in Iraq.
Modern Tokyo Times recently stated: “If the current government of al-Abadi fails to deliver then al-Sadr will up the ante against central forces. After all, the sight of ISIS in Mosul is galling to al-Sadr and the same applies to the role of Ankara, Tehran and Washington into the internal affairs of Iraq. In the past al-Sadr was viewed negatively in many circles but just like the evolution of Hezbollah in Lebanon, then times are changing because now al-Sadr is focused on the bigger picture and the preservation of Iraq. Therefore, with so many people being disillusioned with the current reality of modern day Iraq then al-Abadi needs to respond strongly to the many issues the nation state faces. If not, then al-Sadr is making it known that alternative options exist.”
Al-Sadr, clearly disillusioned with the current political status quo and seemingly intractable problems, is now calling on the Iraqi people to raise their voices and to stand firm until reforms are implemented. He said “I make a historical call to every honest, reform-loving Iraqi to rise up and start a new phase in the peaceful popular protests.”
The powerful Shia cleric continued by telling his supporters to “Get ready and organize yourselves to establish sit-in tents. This is your time to root out corruption and the corrupt.”
Associated Foreign Press reports that al-Sadr “…urged his followers to ramp up pro-reform rallies by setting up tents in front of Baghdad’s “Green Zone” and camping out until their demands are met… the sit-in outside the fortified area where the state’s top institutions and many embassies are based would begin next Friday, on March 18.”
The religious cleric is also letting the prime minister know that abandonment, conflict, corruption, disillusionment, patronage, squandering of resources, weakening of central structures and disunity can’t continue indefinitely. Therefore, al-Sadr stressed openly “I want the prime minister to continue his reform plan with no fear of political pressure.” However, if reforms aren’t implemented by a certain time then this holy cleric will increase pressure on already weakened central forces.
It remains to be seen if the internal political situation will change dramatically in the corridors of power in Baghdad. Yet, with the menace of ISIS being real and with regional nations like Turkey openly violating the sovereignty of Iraq, then something will emerge to challenge the political status quo. After all, the reality of corruption, ethnic issues, political patronage, external political pressure, sectarianism, terrorism and the squandering of resources is tearing apart at all groups that make up modern day Iraq. Therefore, if internal political reforms fail to materialize then the holy Shia cleric is making it known that a challenge will emerge based on the need to galvanize modern day Iraq.
Al-Sadr said recently to an enormous crowd “I am among you to say to you, frankly and bravely, that the government has left its people struggling against death, fear, hunger, unemployment, occupation, a struggling economy, a security crisis, bad services and a big political crisis.”
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