[Marxism] Sadrists declare they would respond to a strike on Iran

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Tue Jan 24 08:24:49 MST 2006


Iraqi Shiite Cleric Pledges to Defend Iran
Sadr, With Powerful Militia, Vows to Respond to Attack by West on Neighbor

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post
Tuesday, January 24, 2006; A13

BAGHDAD, Jan. 23 -- An Iraqi Muslim cleric who leads a major Shiite militia 
pledged to come to the defense of neighboring Iran if it were attacked, 
aides to the cleric, Moqtada Sadr, said Monday.

The commitment, made Sunday in Tehran during a visit by Sadr, came in 
response to a senior Iranian official's query about what the cleric would do 
in the event of an attack on Iran. It marked the first open indication that 
Iraq's Shiite neighbor is preparing for a military response if attacked in a 
showdown with the West over its nuclear program.

The pledge was also one of the strongest signs yet that Iraq could become a 
battleground in any Western conflict with Iran, raising the specter of Iraqi 
Shiite militias -- or perhaps even the U.S.-trained Shiite-dominated 
military -- taking on American troops here in sympathy with Iran.

Sadr is a top leader of the Shiite coalition that leads Iraq and dominates 
its security forces. His pledge might be seen as an indicator of how the 
Iraqi government may respond to a potential attack on its neighbor.

"If there was an attack on Iran, even a limited military strike, this would 
provoke anger through the entire Muslim world. It would certainly jeopardize 
the already fragile position of the United States in Iraq," said Joseph 
Cirincione, an Iraq and nuclear weapons expert with the Carnegie Endowment 
for International Peace in Washington.

"Whether that would mean an uprising, direct military clashes or simply 
demands that the United States would leave Iraq, we don't know," Cirincione 
said in a telephone interview. "But it won't be good."

Iraq is led by a coalition of Shiite religious parties. They include Sadr's 
bloc, which won 29 parliament seats in Dec. 15 elections. Sadr and the 
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is allied with 
Iran, each maintain militias of thousands of men.

Fighters in Sadr's Mahdi Army appear to be highly disciplined and loyal. 
They often march in step through Baghdad in parades that are a mix of 
martial pride and religious mourning. At times they have mounted rapid, 
lethal strikes on rivals and enemies. Together, the two militias control 
much of Iraq's Shiite-dominated south, which borders Iran.

Sadr remained in Tehran on Monday. The Shiite cleric, about 30, has been 
slowly making his way home from a religious pilgrimage to Mecca, stopping to 
meet with regional leaders along the way.

Sadr is influential as the scion of a religious family revered by millions 
of Iraq's Shiites. He has been a steadfast opponent of the U.S. occupation. 
His fighters battled U.S. forces in Najaf, laying down arms only after a 
brokered resolution.

Ali Yasiri, the head of Sadr's political office in Baghdad, said the request 
to Sadr came from the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, 
Ali Larijani.

"They asked him a question: 'What would be the Mahdi Army's role if any 
neighboring country were attacked?' " Yasiri said. "And Moqtada Sadr said, 
'If any Arab country, or neighboring country, were attacked, Iraq will 
help.'

"That doesn't mean that he meant the Mahdi Army," Yasiri said. "He meant 
Iraq as a country will help, and not necessarily militarily."

Yasiri said his account came from Sadr officials accompanying the Iraqi 
cleric in Tehran.

However, a Sadr spokesman in Najaf, the Shiite holy city in southern Iraq 
that is Sadr's base, gave a different account of the agreement between Sadr 
and Iran, as did Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency.

"Moqtada Sadr said, 'If any Islamic state, especially the Islamic Republic 
of Iran, is attacked, the Mahdi Army would fight inside and outside Iraq,' " 
said the spokesman, Sahib Amiri.

"Iran is an Islamic country that has strong relations with the Shiites in 
Iraq. We do not forget these relations," Amiri said.

Amiri said Sadr was visiting Iran "to support the Iranian people and 
government against any possible attack against the Islamic republic."

In Tehran, the state news agency also reported that Sadr had committed his 
Iraqi militia to fight on Iran's behalf.

"If neighboring Islamic countries, including Iran, become the target of 
attacks, we will support them," IRNA quoted Sadr as saying. "The Mahdi Army 
is beyond the Iraqi army," Sadr said, according to IRNA. "It was established 
to defend Islam."

Iran revived its atomic research program earlier this month, ending a 
two-year moratorium. While Iran says it intends to develop nuclear energy 
solely for electricity, Western countries fear the Shiite theocracy is in 
pursuit of its own atomic bomb.

Israel, a reported atomic power, which destroyed an Iraqi nuclear facility 
in an airstrike in 1981, has issued what some have seen as threats of 
similar preemptive strikes in Iran.

French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that France was prepared to 
launch a nuclear strike against any country that sponsors a terrorist attack 
against French interests. He said his country's nuclear arsenal had been 
reconfigured to include the ability to make a tactical strike in retaliation 
for terrorism.

Iran has responded unflinchingly, with its Foreign Ministry saying Sunday 
that Israel would be making a "fatal mistake" if it resorted to military 
action.

Iraq's Shiite-led government, which came to power after the 2003 toppling of 
Saddam Hussein, has affirmed close ties with Iran. Prospective candidates 
for Iraq's prime minister post have first gone to Tehran for approval. Iran 
has poured aid into Iraq, and trade agreements have blossomed.

U.S. and British diplomats and commanders accuse Iran of allowing -- or 
encouraging -- transport of arms and fighters into Iraq to stage attacks.

On Monday, a senior U.S. military intelligence official said the British 
government had issued a formal protest to Tehran after sophisticated bombs 
began appearing in southeastern Iraq. The devices used the same kind of 
electronic triggers found in bombs made by the militant group Hezbollah in 
Lebanon, the official said.

"Our belief is that the machining is done somewhere in Iran," said the 
official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Aides to Sadr said the cleric also visited Saudi Arabia, where he asked King 
Abdullah to press the United States for a deadline for a U.S. withdrawal 
from Iraq. The aides said Sadr also visited Lebanon, where he had an 
appointment with Hasan Nasr Allah, a Hezbollah leader.

Ridha Jawad Taqi, a spokesman for the Supreme Council, Iraq's dominant 
party, would not comment Monday on whether Iran had asked for similar help 
from the party or its militia, the Badr Organization, in the event of 
attack, or on what the Supreme Council's response might be if Iran did make 
such a request.







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