[Marxism] Al-Sadr: No to Maliki, No to US/UK, No to Syria/Iran, yes to working with Sunni!
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. -- 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....
MY PERILOUS VOYAGE INTO BAGHDAD'S DRAGON DEN
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
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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