[Marxism] Dramatic developments in Najaf

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Wed Aug 25 16:08:31 MDT 2004

Hi Fred,

Our views on this situation are beginning to diverge, but 
they remain still well within the same anti-imperialist 
framework, so we should bear that in mind.  Firstly you are 
correct - al-Sistani does rely for his support on his 
position as the prime Shia scholar etc.  But no one to my 
reading has suggested otherwise.

Secondly Sistani's position in London, while Najaf was being 
bombed was highly significant, to my way of thinking. It 
supports earlier statements that he was close to the British. 
Does that make him a direct supporter of the occupation?  
Again I would say no.  I have consistently thought that the 
al-Jaafari and al-Sistani approach has been to wait for 
elections so that a Shia majority led govt can emerge.

But the situation in Iraq has never really been about waiting 
for electoral democracy.  For one thing the Americans have 
had a very different agenda.  They have sought to reconstruct 
the entire Middle East, under their direct political, 
military and economic hegemony.  Even the most pathetic 
remnants of Arab independence and nationalism is to be swept 

So Iraqi nationalism is the enemy here.  But the Shia section 
of the middle and ruling class in Iraq, do not seem willing 
to undertake the national struggle.    That has meant that 
faux de mieux, the standard has been passed to al-Sadr.

It is this which is the basis of the tension between al-
Sistani and al-Sadr.    Moreover it is also why we should 
play close attention to their rivalry, for it is central to 
our task of understanding what is going on  in Iraq.

Now al-Sistani at any time could have stopped the American 
assault on al-Sadr.  He chose not to, because in all 
probability he wanted the upstart cleric finished off.  But 
the price he hs had to pay for his collaboration, and that is 
precisely what it was, Fred, was becoming higher by the day.  

Again I think like Allawi and the other quislings, he 
underestimated the endurance of al-Sadr's followers.  They 
have held out for three weeks.  No one could have expected 

Now Najaf is in ruins, al-Sistani decides he must save it, 
but of course it is himself that he wishes to save. The 
downside for al-Sistani, is that he is compelled to prevent 
the finishing off of al-Sadr.  So this crisis will re-emerge 
in another form.

As for al-Sadr himself, it is well to recall that his father 
started the Sadrist movement to undercut the support for 
communism among the Shia poor in Baghdad.  That was the task 
allotted to him.  But it also meant that the family got up on 
the tiger's back.  Like all leaders of the poor, al-Sadr is 
at times led as much as he leads.



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