[Marxism] Al-Sadr: No to Maliki, No to US/UK, No to Syria/Iran, yes to working with Sunni!

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Sun Jun 29 17:59:05 MDT 2014

Daily Mail interviews Moqtada's commander in Baghdad
Sunday, 29 June 2014 06:58 Henry Adams

On Saturday Barbara Jones published in the London Daily Mail an account 
of her interview with Ibrahim al-Jaberi, the Mahdi Army's militia 
commander in Baghdad.[1]  --  COMMENT:  Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of 
the Mahdi Army, is a hero to millions of Iraqi Shiites and the only 
leader who has a chance of uniting Iraqis to fight off the fanatical 
ISIS.  --  He represents genuine Iraqi nationalism and is the only major 
Shiite leader has fought to defend Sunnis and thus has a claim to their 
allegiance.  --  But the forces he fought to defend them were American 
and British, and he represents the poorer strata of Iraqi society, to 
which U.S. policy is indifferent when it is not hostile.  --  As a 
result, Moqtada and his Mahdi Army get only negative press in the West 
when they get any press at all.  --  The failure of the U.S. to come to 
terms with Moqtada is a clear sign that maintaining the unity and 
territorial integrity of Iraq is not the highest American priority....

By Barbara Jones

** A dramatic dispatch on a saber-rattling encounter with rebel chief **

Daily Mail (London)
June 28, 2014


Shots echo in the street below as my phone rings.  It’s just after dawn 
in a Baghdad under curfew.  The head of the Mahdi Army -- the fanatical 
Shia force and avowed enemies of the West -- has agreed to see me:  but 
on his terms.

I must venture into Sadr City, the slum district of the Iraqi capital 
that defied British and American occupation for a decade.

Now the militants have a new enemy -- the Sunni terror group ISIS, who 
have left a trail of blood across Iraq and are fast closing in on 
Baghdad itself.

That has not dimmed the army’s hatred of the West -- and I will be told 
in no uncertain terms that foreign intervention will be ‘unacceptable.’

But first I must get to Sadr City, a volatile place with a 
‘fight-to-the-death’ spirit, whose streets have seen terrible sectarian 

It was named after the father of Moqtada al-Sadr, the army’s founder. 
He was a Grand Ayatollah who stood up to Saddam Hussein and was shot 
dead by the dictator’s Sunni supporters.

I had encountered the Mahdi Army before.  In 2005, when I was with a 
British Army patrol in Basra, we were attacked by their fighters aiming 
rocket-propelled grenades at us.  Yet now I am speaking to them; 
agreeing to the instructions for this meeting:  I am to drive to the 
Habibi Hospital, call a number, and wait for Al-Sadr’s men.

The militant leader knows no compromise, and only last week warned 
America and her allies to ‘take their hands off Iraq.’  He claims to 
have re-invented his fighting force as a ‘peace brigade’ to defend 

Driving through empty early-morning streets, the dashboard shows a 
temperature of 41 C. (106 F.), another  day of suffocating heat.  Inside 
our car, flak jackets are flattened against the doors, protection 
against roadside bombs that kill four people a day here.

This is a city in a state of siege, nervously awaiting, fearing, an 
attack by the Sunni forces or a return of the Americans.  Checkpoints, 
car searches and blast walls are all a way of life.

We arrive at the hospital, a sad run-down structure surrounded by rolls 
of barbed wire.  Seven Mahdi Army men soon pull up, all in black police 
uniforms and bristling with weapons.

They check our papers and signal for us to follow them through the 
rubbish-strewn streets.  Low-key is not their style.

Their Ford pick-up careers through busy markets with much hooting of 
horns and screeching of brakes.  Any vehicles getting in the way end up 
at the dangerous end of a rifle barrel.

Residents live their lives, opening pavement kiosks, servicing rundown 
cars, and recycling tires.  Two sheep are led into a butcher’s shop to 
meet their fate.  Cans of petrol are lined up at the roadside, a symbol 
of poverty in an oil-rich country.  But no one looks up as we speed 
past.  People here are trained to see only what they need to see.

Eventually we skid around a corner between broken buildings.  White 
gates swing open on to a courtyard.

A striking figure in a turban comes out to greet us --  the man we have 
come to meet, cleric-cum-warlord Ibrahim al-Jaberi, Al-Sadr’s commander 
in Baghdad.  Our escort excitedly surround him, scrambling for photos.

Once in his reception room, with its garish red velvet furniture and an 
excerpt from the Koran engraved on a goat-skin, it is clear Al-Jaberi is 
playing games with us.  All of his pronouncements carry an underlying 

Fingering prayer beads, he says:  ‘We have changed.  We are warriors for 
peace now, we don’t want war.  We want the people of Iraq to unite 
against our new enemy [ISIS].  In the past our enemies were America and 
Britain, invading our country.  Our duty then was to get them out.’

All the rockets, the heavy artillery, the cans of Semtex,  the ammo 
vests of the suicide bombers we saw in a big parade of peace brigade 
force last weekend --  they are all for defense, he insists.  ‘We will 
use those weapons if ISIS comes to Baghdad.  And we will not work 
alongside the Iraqi military.  We will not take orders from them.’

He flinches as I take something from my rucksack and I realize:  the 
armed escort, the secrecy, it was all for his security, not ours.  I 
smile reassuringly at him.  We are both aware of the danger we represent 
to each other.

Al-Jaberi has a warning:  ‘We reject Nouri al-Maliki, the prime 
minister, and Usama al-Nujaifi, speaker of parliament.

'They are thieves and bad leaders.  We want them to go, we have nothing 
but contempt for them.  We also reject outside interference.  We will 
not accept America or Britain interfering again.  We don’t want Syria or 
Iran or any other foreign forces here.

‘What would Britain do if foreign forces invaded?  That would lead to 
violence for you, would it not?’  The veiled threat hangs in the air. 
This was a man delivering his master’s message.

Leaving Al-Jaberi’s lair, we found ourselves on the streets without an 
escort.  Now we were on our own.

A phone call brings us a security guard on a motor-scooter who leads us 
out of the slum.  Sadr City is behind us now, but what happens here next 
could seal the future of Iraq, and beyond

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