Get Sadr ? – The War for the Oil Law

Iraqi women mourn a baby killed in a US bombing raid, Sadr City, Baghdad, 21st November 2006



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Summary

Al Sadr and his Medhi army militia have been called a greater threat to US aims in Iraq than Al Qa’ida. They’ve been presented as Iranian puppets and Sadr himself as both a potential dictator and a vicious sectarian who orders the killing of Iraqi sunnis and women and anyone else accused of ‘UnIslamic behaviour’.

While many Madhi army members are definitely guilty of such actions they are not the only militia involved in them (even some of the 'awakening' militias paid by the US military are ). So these crimes are certainly not the main reasons for the Bush administration’s hostility to Sadr and his followers. The main reasons are a struggle over the distribution of Iraq’s oil revenues and an attempt to permanently occupy Iraq. It’s a struggle in which Al Sadr represents far more Iraqis than the US government does.

Sadr certainly does not have control of the entire Madhi army militia, which is huge and unpaid. It’s uncertain whether he is genuinely trying to restrain his militia from carrying out revenge attacks and murders of women and purge it of sectarian killers and criminals (as his public statements suggest) or whether he tacitly approves the crimes committed by many of his followers against women and Sunnis and is behind the assassinations he has been accused of. The evidence suggests he is at least trying to prevent sectarian attacks on Sunnis and purge the militia of criminals.

What is certain is that dictatorship and sanctions followed by the occupation and the unemployment, poverty, deaths and massive corruption that go along with it are strengthening support for extremists in Iraq. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon before them the Madhi army and the Sadrists are a mass movement with a long established constituency among poor Shia. They are gaining support due to the occupation – so cannot be defeated by it. Nor would jailing or killing Sadr end the Sadrists or the Madhi army. Saddam executed dozens of Al Sadr's predecessors. This only strengthened the movement. Nor are all their demands wrong – for instance they want welfare, jobs and public services for the unemployed and poor of Iraq.

The main results of Coalition and Iraqi government offensives against the Madhi army, like other offensives in Iraq, have been hundreds of deaths in each assault - with half or more of the dead civilians and more Iraqis becoming extremists as a result. Iraqis are also dying of hunger and diseases spread by lack of clean water supplies, both at rates unprecedented even under Saddam and sanctions. This is due to corruption in both the US and Iraqi governments along with constant military offensives and IMF conditions on debt relief. Massive foreign aid and war reparations to provide jobs, education, welfare and public services would be far more effective in reducing the linked problems of unemployment, poverty, crime and sectarian violence. The foreign debts which Saddam's regime ran up should be forgiven - not used as leverage to force the new government into signing deals with oil companies and the US military.

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Background : Sadr, the Madhi army and US forces in Iraq

The US government and military have frequently said they’ll negotiate with any Iraqi party or militia in Iraq – with the exception of Al Sadr and the Medhi army, who have been targeted by the occupying forces and the Iraqi governments they have installed from 2004 on (1), (2), (3). Sadr has similarly refused to negotiate with the US government or military as he sees coalition forces as occupiers. The Pentagon and the Iraqi government have both described Sadr’s Madhi army as a greater threat than Al Qaeda, and coalition forces in Iraq have repeatedly threatened and attempted to arrest or assassinate him – including during planned negotiations between Sadr and the Iraqi government. In April 2004 President Bush told General Ricardo Sanchez “He [Sadr] must be wiped out.”. He later withdrew the order due to upcoming Presidential elections and opposition to coalition offensives in Fallujah and Najaf by all Iraqi parties. (4), (5).

Photo: Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, former US commander in Iraq

By 2006 though coalition operations against the Madhi army had resumed and Pentagon spokesmen told journalists Sadr was scared he was going to get a JDAM (guided missile) fired into his house and had fled to Iran (6). Coalition offensives against the Madhi army continued throughout 2007.

By late 2007 though General Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, was thanking Sadr for ordering his militia to maintain a ceasefire and claimed to have met some of Sadr’s deputies to discuss how to deal with “their common enemy” – splinter groups of the Madhi army out of sadr’s control (Sadr denied the men Petraeus met were his people )(7), (8).

However during late March and early April 2008 the Iraqi army and coalition forces were launching offensives in Basra, Najaf and sadr City against the Madhi army – and Prime Minister Maliki was calling the militia “worse than Al Qaeda” (9). Petraeus and the Bush administration claimed this offensive took them by surprise, though other sources disputed this. Sadr has since called a new ceasefire.

So its uncertain whether the Pentagon and the White House have stopped trying to “wipe out” Sadr and are indirectly negotiating with him (or even co-operating with him to eliminate his rivals and out of control groups in the Madhi army) or whether they’ve only changed their public statements. (To read more about whether the US administration and military knew about Maliki's offensive in advanceclick here)

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Iranian backed criminals, sectarians and murderers?

Madhi army militiamen wave a placard showing Muqtada Al Sadr, Sadr City, Baghdad, 2004

The reasons given for targeting the Medhi army and Al Sadr are their links to Iran and involvement in criminal and sectarian kidnappings and murders, including those of Sunnis, women accused by fanatics of ‘un-Islamic behaviour’ and of Sadr’s rivals among Iraqi Shia religious leaders.

A September 2006 report by the US military claimed “The group that is currently having the greatest negative affect on the security situation in Iraq is Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), which has replaced al-Qaeda in Iraq as the most dangerous accelerant of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence in Iraq.” (10)

Certainly members of the Madhi army have been involved in these crimes but so have most militias – including the Badr brigade, the militia of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC – previously SCIRI or the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) which is the main party in the US-backed Iraqi government, along with the current Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s Dawa party (11), (12).

If the coalition and Iraqi government offensives against ‘the militias’ fighting in Iraq were really a war against militias to establish the rule of law they would also be targeting militias like the Badr brigade – they didn’t (13), (14), (15) (though one other militia – a small pro-Iranian one and pro-SCIRI/SIIC, was targeted) (16). The government’s army units, police and especially the elite, coalition trained, ‘police commandoes’ are notoriously infiltrated by the Badr brigade and likely to include some of the death squads which have been dumping the bodies of tortured Sunnis since the invasion. The sincerity of Iraqi government claims to wish to end militia murders of women can be judged by their order to policewomen to hand in their guns last November despite a wave of such murders (17), (18), (19), (20). Even the Pentagon acknowledges that 'Badr’s members attack Sunni targets’ and that the militia ‘receives financial and materiel support from abroad’ (21). It’s no secret that ‘abroad’ means Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah. (There is no mention of US funded and armed militias or Coalition forces and mercenaries. Are Iraq and the US perhaps the same country?)

Badr brigade militiamen - the militia of the SIIC/SCIRI party which has the support of middle class and wealthy Iraqi Shia, they are often at war with Sadr's Madhi army and its members have committed the same crimes as some Medhi army members have - yet Coalition and Iraqi government forces haven't attacked it the way they attack the Medhi army.

Some Madhi army members may have been provided with training by Iran as the US military claims but SIIC and its Badr Brigades have far closer links and support from the Iranian government (22), (23). The Madhi army has not got much of the kind of equipment Hezbollah was provided with by Iran either – very few long ranged rockets for instance. Much of the Madhi army’s equipment probably comes from arms provided to the Iraqi army by the coalition – many of which have gone missing (24). Some have even suggested that Iranian agents’ main aims may be to divide and weaken the Sadrists and the Madhi army (who have a history of anti-Iranian Iraqi nationalism) by bribing factions to defy the leadership (25). The last major offensive against the Madhi army ended with a ceasefire brokered in Iran. So the US may actually be increasing Iranian influence in Iraq by targeting the Sadrists. (alternatively Sadr may actually be pleased for coalition and Iraqi government forces to be targeting criminal elements of his militia and those in the pay of the Iranian government).

Photos : Iranian influence before and after the last offensive ; Above - A past visit to Iran's 'Supreme Leader' by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki - note he wears a tie and a buttoned up suit in the western fashion ; Below - Al-Maliki's last visit to Iran in April - note he wears a white shirt with no tie now and has unbuttoned his jacket, following the post-1979 revolution Iranian dress codes

The Medhi army is unusual in being unpaid and having a very large membership. This makes it especially vulnerable to infiltration by criminals, sectarians and Iranian, Iraqi and American intelligence infiltration by bribery. Criminal groups also use the organization as a political cover for kidnapping, extortion and murder (26), (27). This overlaps with sectarian violence, much as in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as sectarian conflict provides a political cover story for murder, kidnapping for money, extortion and theft (28), (29). This crime, in turn, is caused largely by the destruction of the legal economy and legal sources of income – largely by ‘developed world’ governments’ sanctions, trade demands and conditions on loans, not to mention the increase in poverty, hunger and unemployment since the occupation began (30), (31).

So it's fairly obvious that neither criminal activity, sectarian violence nor links to Iran are the real reasons for US government and military hostility to Al Sadr and the Medhi army.

Many Sunni militiamen paid by US military murdering and threatening Shia - they include former Al Qa'ida fighters

Whats more many of the Sunni Sheikhs and their fighters paid and armed by the US to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq include those still involved in sectarian killings, death threats against Shia and other criminal acts. The Awakening militiamen even include even Iraqis who used to fight for Al Qaida for pay (most Iraqis who join militias do so because they can't get any money to survive except by crime or joining a militia). These include some designated 'Awakening councils' or 'concerned citizens', though others are a mixture of Sunni and Shia and may actually be preventing sectarian killings. Leaders of the Sunni groups funded by the US, such as Sheikh Abu Abed in Ameriya have made it clear that "After we finish with al-Qaida here, we will turn toward our main enemy, the Shia militias. I will liberate Jihad [a Sunni area next to Ameriya taken over by the Mahdi army] then Saidiya and the whole of west Baghdad." This may well mean ethnically cleansing the Shia in mixed areas by murders, kidnappings and threats - just as elements of the Madhi army have done to Sunnis. Some officers in these Sunni militias, such as the Ameriya Knights and the Baghdad Brigade, have even threatened to fight the forces of the mostly Shia Iraqi government (31a) , (31b) , (31c) , (31d).

Sunni 'concerned citizens' or 'Awakening council' militia-men. Paid by the US military to fight Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI), some include people who fought for AQI in the past and are as involved in sectarian killings of Shia as the Madhi army and Badr Brigade are in murdering Sunnis. Some 'Concerned Citizens' groups are a mixture of Sunni and Shia though and may be reducing sectarian violence.

This may be part of the current US Presidency's strategy of trying to "curb Iranian influence" by arming and funding Sunni governments (openly) and armed groups (covertly) against Shia ones across the Middle East. In 2007 the Bush administration announced $73 bn of arms sales to Israel, Saudi, the Gulf states and Egypt. The effort to get peace between Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians is also about creating a Sunni-US-Israeli alliance to counter the 'Shia crescent' with all Shia seen almost as Iranian agents. This may well be aiding some Sunni groups who will be enemies of the US again in the near future, much as with CIA funding of jihadists in Afghanistan in the 80s. Some of the groups recieving US aid are very similar to Al Qaida in ideology and methods. However as some of the Awakening or 'Concerned Citizens' groups are a mixture of Sunni and Shia there may be divisions within the US administration, with the State Department or some people in the Pentagon genuinely having ending sectarian violence as their priority , (31e), (31f), (31g), (31h).

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Sadr the Sectarian?

Picture : Muqtada Al Sadr

Al Sadr has also repeatedly ordered his followers not to attack ordinary Sunnis, saying that the real enemies are “the takfirs” or “terrorists” (i.e Al Qa’ida) and the occupying forces. For instance after the bodies of Shia pilgrims were found in May 2005 Sadr:

‘urged his followers not to retaliate against Sunnis."All Sunnis cannot be held responsible for the terrorist deeds of the nawaseb," al-Sadr told reporters, referring to Sunni militants inspired by the Wahhabi brand of Islam dominant in neighboring Saudi Arabia.'(32)

After the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra in April 2006 he again said there should be no revenge attacks on Sunnis saying “We are not enemies but brothers…Anyone who attacks a Muslim is not a Muslim.” (33)

Al Sadr’s record may be less than perfect here. He’s accused by some of using words with vague meanings which could be interpreted (or mis-interpreted) to apply to all Sunnis. He also blamed deaths in a stampede of Shia pilgrims (caused by a rumour about sunni suicide bombers) on Sunni extremists or former Ba’athists – and after the market bombings which killed 215 people (mostly Shia) in one day in November 2006 he failed to call for restraint and instead demanded that Iraq’s Sunni religious leaders should issue a fatwa against the killing of Shia (34), (35).

However to retain any influence over their followers Iraqi politicians like Sadr cannot afford to be seen as “soft on terrorism” any more than any British or American politician can, particularly when terrorist attacks killing dozens or even hundreds of people at a time in Iraq are daily or weekly events, unlike those in the US and Europe.

Photo : A boy wounded by a bomb placed in a market in Sadr city January 2007 - most victims of suicide and car bombings are Shia, most bombers are Sunni extremists or unknown, with 'revenge' attacks on Sunnis by Shia mostly using guns, knives and torture

The testimony of members of Shia death squads in the Medhi army interviewed by British journalist Patrick Cockburn was that they were not operating on Al Sadr’s orders and that Al Sadr’s public calls on his followers not to carry out revenge attacks on ordinary Sunnis for killings of Shia are probably genuine . Members of the International Crisis Group who stayed with Madhi army members in Iraq also reported that different groups of the militia sometimes took opposite positions and actions without any central control seeming to exist. We know many Medhi army members were involved in such killings at times – we don’t know if Sadr was publicly condemning but privately approving them, but the evidence suggests he has genuinely tried to stop them. By late 2007 Sadr seemed to have established more control over his militia and prevented revenge attacks on Sunnis by his milita, suggesting he genuinely has tried to prevent them.(36) , (37).

What's more every April since the invasion Al Sadr has organised joint Sunni-Shia marches against the occupation - and massive numbers have marched in each.(37b), (37c)

Photo : Shia and Sunni Iraqis march together to Najaf to protest against the occupation, April 2007

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Is Sadr behind the assassination of his rivals?

Photo : Ayatollah Abdul Majid al Khoei, who was murdered by a mob in Najaf during the US invasion in 2003 - his family and the coalition accuse Al Sadr of being responsible

Al Sadr is also accused of having ordered the assassination of potential rivals. The truth here is hard to know in an Iraq filled with many different factions killing and fighting propaganda wars against one another (including employees of the Pentagon who include former agents of Saddam), but it seems doubtful that Al Sadr’s many enemies in the Bush administration and the Iraqi government wouldn’t have acted against him and made their evidence public if they had hard evidence of his guilt.

What is clear is that the exiled Shia cleric Ayatollah al Khoei, who had the support of the British and American governments, was killed by a mob of Iraqis on his return to Najaf in April 2003, during the US invasion. Mobs then surrounded the residence of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani (another rival of Al Sadr’s) and shouted for him to leave the country, before being dispersed by Sistani’s own supporters. Despite allegations against Al Sadr what’s not clear is who killed al Khoei and why or whether Sadr ordered his followers to target Sistani or not. There are several versions of events which put the blame on either Al Sadr or former Ba’athists or supporters of Sadr acting against his wishes. Sadr denies responsibility. Khoei’s son – Haider Al Khoei – reports that Sadr ordered his father’s murder, but that much of the evidence was suppressed by the Iraqi government when Sadr’s followers on his own and the Shia UIA electoral lists agreed to join the government and provide it with a majority. If the story that eye witnesses saw and heard Al Sadr order his followers to kill Al Khoie is true then it’s amazing Al Sadr survived under Saddam for so many years, then made such a careless mistake as to let witnesses to a murder he had ordered live to tell others (38), (39), (40), (41) , (42), (43), (44), (45).

Since the assassins, who apparently admitted being sent by Sadr, were questioned by a former officer in Saddam’s Mukhabarat (secret police) employed by the coalition their ‘admissions’ are probably worthless as evidence since Saddam’s government, the new Iraqi government and coalition forces have all employed systematic torture according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – and under torture people will admit to anything, true or not (there have been no reports of torture by beatings by coalition forces after 2005 but sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding all definitely continue). Another (unpublished) document claimed to prove Sadr’s guilt was provided by his political rivals to coalition forces – so it’s provenance is hardly neutral or unbiased either. There are also Ba’athists and Sunnis carrying out assassinations there are few clean hands in Iraq. As has already been noted Sadr does not have a great deal of control (if any) over many of the Madhi army’s members either. (46), (47), (48), (49)).

Sadr’s relatives were also (wrongly) accused of being behind the murder of allies of his rival Sistani (spiritual guide to SCIRI) by Saddam’s agents in the 1990s. The accused Sadrs were subsequently murdered by Saddam’s men too (50).

Sadr himself has faced assassination or capture attempts by coalition forces (as noted in the first section) – and one of his closest aides was assassinated in April 2008 during the government and coalition offensive.(51).

Photo : Mourners at the funeral of Al Sadr's brother in law and aide Riyadh-al-nuri, killed by unknown gunmen

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Misogynists oppressing and murdering women?

Photo : Women protest for their rights to be protected by the new constitution, 20th July 2005. Many women in Iraq have been murdered for what extremists call'unIslamic' dress or behaviour.

The Madhi army is one of several militias involved in murdering women for ‘unIslamic behaviour’. It’s uncertain whether those responsible are out of Sadr’s control or not. Publicly his spokesmen denounce these murders (52).Women in Saudi Arabia face similar repression though without any US pressure let alone military offensives to save them – so this seems unlikely as a motive for targeting Sadr and his militia.

The repressive and brutal religious fundamentalists among the Madhi army and its Sunni equivalents target men as much as women for such ‘crimes’ though. Male barbers have been threatened and attacked for cutting men’s hair in ‘unIslamic’ ways and shaving off their beards (53).

Senior Sadrists have denied the Madhi army imposes a dress code on Iraqi women and said that killing women for the way they dress is ‘contrary to the Islamic approach’ and a crime (54). However there are many reports of Medhi army members being involved in such murders and of them issuing orders in the name of Al Sadr on how men and women should dress with threats for non-compliance– the only question being, as with sectarian murders, whether the senior leadership including Al Sadr privately support such killings or whether their names are being invoked without their approval.

The senior ranks of the Sadrist leadership also include at least one woman cleric among their revered martyrs – Amina Al Sadr or ‘Bint Al Huda’, a sister of one of Sadr’s relatives and predecessors who achieved the second highest rank among Iraqi Shia religious leaders – that of Marja‘ Taqlid (most learned). She and her brother promoted womens’ rights and helped set up the first Islamic schools for girls in Iraq. Both siblings were killed by Saddam’s regime in 1980 (55). So, while his views on it are unknown, it would not be unprecedented if Muqtada Al Sadr also backed education and a role in politics and religion for women – as even Hamas and Hezbollah have.

Photo : Amina Al Sadr or 'Bint Al Huda', a relative of Muqtada's murdered by Saddam's regime, she was greatly respected by religious Iraqi Shia and promoted Shia womens' rights - she is now revered as a martyr

Madhi army members have also ordered girls to wear veils to school, suggesting that even the extremists in the militia don’t want to ban education for girls entirely (56).

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Sadr’s unique sins and the war for the oil law ; A struggle over resources – the multinationals Vs the growing ranks of the unemployed, hungry and dead

Photo : Iraqi trade union leader Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein meets congressman Dennis Kucinich in Washington in June 2007 to protest against the new US-backed Iraqi oil law

The Madhi army’s core supporters are the poorer and unemployed Shia majority of Sadr city in Baghdad (61), (62). The capital has no oil wells at present and its possible oil reserves are of uncertain size. So Al Sadr as an Iraqi nationalist and representative of the Iraqi Shia poor is against splitting up Iraq and against a new oil law (backed by the US government and international oil companies) which would allow regional governments to negotiate separate oil deals with foreign oil firms. Most Sunnis also oppose federalism and the oil law. The leadership of SCIRI – Sadr’s Iranian backed Shia rivals – proposed a federal state with a Shia region which would have 70% of Iraq’s proven oil reserves and not include Baghdad (63).

The American and British governments (and of course the Kurdish regional government in the North) favour devolving power from the Iraqi national government to regional governments as this way their oil firms will be able to negotiate a better deal with smaller governments and regional governments will get a bigger share of revenues. Of course the other side of the coin will be a worse deal for the majority of Iraqis (64), (65).

The contracts offered to oil companies under the oil law would be ‘production sharing agreements’ which last 20 to 30 years and which are only usually negotiated by governments in areas where the presence of significant oil reserves is uncertain and the terrain makes it costly to explore and drill – neither of which apply to Iraq. Under the new draft oil law backed by the US government foreign oil companies would not be required to employ Iraqis and could repatriate any or all profits they made back to their home countries. The share of profits given to foreign companies would also increase from 10% under Saddam to 12.5% - despite the price of oil having more than doubled since the 2003 invasion, greatly increasing potential profits.The draft law, if passed, would also establish an appointed committee to oversee contracts and oil policy which could include “representatives of relevant oil companies”, opening up the possibility of foreign oil firms regulating their own operations. As appointees of the Iraqi Council of Ministers they could be replaced or refused places on the committee – and disputes would be referred to the Iraqi Oil Minister or Iraqi courts, but the influence of oil firms would certainly be increased (66), (67), (68), (69).

The BBC reported in July last year that the 30 Iraqi MPs loyal to Al Sadr joined Sunni MPs on grounds of securing Iraq’s oil for Iraqis in voting against the new oil law(57). Iraqi trade unions also oppose the law (58).

With Al Sadr having withdrawn from the governing Shia coalition the Iraqi government doesn’t have a majority in parliament to pass the new oil law. So Madhi army claims that the government’s offensive against them aims to weaken their vote in future elections may be accurate.

Even with many of the Madhi army’s crimes Sadr’s record (see sections above) doesn’t fit very well with the official narrative of Al Sadr as an evil Iranian backed sectarian out to massacre Sunnis, democrats, socialists and trade unionists and impose a Shia theocracy. In fact the real threats posed by the Sadrists is that they are Iraqi nationalists who aim to unite Sunni and Shia Iraqis against the occupying forces as they showed in April 2004 and again in April 2007 when Sadr helped organise marches in which Sunnis and Shia marched together against the occupation (59), (60).

So Sadr’s unique sins in the eyes of the US administration are to refuse to accept the presence of foreign forces in his country and to oppose the US backed draft oil law for Iraq, along with his sporadic attempts to ally with Sunnis opposed to the occupation. The core of this dispute though is a struggle over the distribution of oil revenues.

Iraq’s transitional administrative laws, dictated in practice solely by Paul Bremer as head of the CPA in practice (or “the new dictator of Iraq” as UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called him) , remain in force under the new constitution (70).

They include Bremer’s Order 39 which allows foreign companies to buy 100% control of Iraqi companies and repatriate 100% of their profits as well as Saddam’s 1987 law banning trade unions independent of the government, which Bremer never repealed. US and Iraqi troops frequently ban trade union activities, raid the offices of independent trade unions and “detain” trade union officials using these laws (71), (72), (73), (74), (75), (76).

The IMF and ‘developed world’ governments have also made the writing off of 50% of Iraq's foreign debts (which Saddam’s regime accumulated) conditional on policies including cuts in government subsidies on which Iraqis rely due to decades of sanctions followed by the current chaos. There are plenty of precedents for writing off debts run up by dictators on the transition to democracy – but making debt write-offs conditional gives the coalition governments another point of leverage to control Iraq’s government and economy (77), (78).

Far more Iraqis suffering hunger and malnutrition than under sanctions and Saddam

Photo : A baby suffering from malnutrition and undernutrition. Malnutrition rates in Iraq doubled under sanctions in the 90s and have doubled again since the invasion, with many families now scavenging for food in bins, something unheard of even under Saddam.

The Medhi army and the Sadrists, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, provide the health-care, education, pensions and support for the populations that support them which their governments fail to. IMF imposed ‘reforms’ in Lebanon almost led to civil war through ending subsidies to the poor. In Iraq IMF policies imposed as conditions for debt reduction include cuts in food price subsidies and provision of food rations to the poorest. In Iraq by autumn 2007 more people relied on government rations for food than under Saddam and UN sanctions – and the quantity and types of food available were reduced compared to the 1990s. Hundreds of people in Baghdad were scavenging in bins for food. Yet in December 2007 the Iraqi government cut the budget for food rations again on the stated grounds that the budget (much larger than under Saddam and sanctions in the 90s) couldn’t pay for them. In theory the rations were to be replaced by cash payments of social security – but with rocketing food prices and Iraqi and US government corruption this has never been implemented and would be unlikely to allow Iraqis to afford enough food to eat. Many refugees inside Iraq – ‘internally displaced people’ forced out of their homes by coalition offensives and sectarian killings by other Iraqis – can’t get food rations at all as they are no longer at the address they were listed at for rations but in tents elsewhere. (79), (80), (81), (82), (83), (84), (85), (86), (87).

As a result the majority of poor Shia in Iraq, as in Lebanon, back Shia radicals against the occupiers and their allies who would deny them jobs, welfare and in many cases even enough food to feed their children.

So far from a war between tolerant democrats and intolerant murderous Iranian backed fundamentalists the war against Al Sadr and the Medhi army is a conflict over the distribution of oil wealth, over whether the majority of Iraqis will get enough of a share of it to even barely support themselves and their families or whether the majority will go to foreign firms and a small minority of Iraqis bribed and threatened to ensure their complicity.

The rise in support for Al Sadr since 2003 is partly because the ranks of the poor and unemployed among Iraq’s Shia are growing due to the corruption and theft perpetrated by the Iraqi government and by US firms linked to the Bush administration (88), (89),(90).

Half of dead civilians in every offensive - polls show Iraqis want Coalition troops to leave Iraq now

Every time fighting breaks out against the Madhi army food prices are pushed up even further in the area affected, food shortages worsen, rubbish and sewage contaminates drinking water (causing disease). What's more at least half of the dead are always civilians (91), (91b) . For instance during the March-April 2008 Iraqi government and coalition offensive the UN's OCHA reported "In the 21 days since clashes began a total of 597 people were killed in Baghdad City, of which 272 were Iraqi civilians" (92). It's been the same in every coalition or Iraqi government offensive in Iraq. Iraq Body Count found half the media reported deaths in the April 2004 assault on Fallujah were women and children (suggesting more than half were civilians) (93). Hospitals in Samarra in October 2004 reported half the dead were similarly women, children and old people (suggesting more than half were civilians) (94).

Photo : A 2 year old boy - Ali Hussein - killed when his house collapsed after a US rocket hit it during fighting with the Madhi army in Sadr city, Baghdad , reported by ABC News May 2nd 2008

No wonder polls show Iraqis increasingly think more US troops in their area means things will get worse, not better – and no wonder the proportion wanting foreign troops to leave and leave soon keeps increasing (95). By March 2007 a poll by Opinion Research Business on behalf of the Brookings Institution more than half of Iraqis polled still said the security situation would improve if coalition forces left Iraq. By August 2007 more Iraqis were saying Coalition forces were most responsible for violence in Iraq even than Al Qaeda and foreign jihadis. By March 2008 found 73% of Iraqis said they opposed the presence of Coalition troops in Iraq, compared to 51% asked the same question in 2004. (96).

Photo : A march against another US air raid in Sadr city, this time in 2007, which also killed civilians

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Sadr the Dictator or Theocrat? ; Another Saddam or Khomeini?

It’s disputed whether Al Sadr is a supporter of an Iranian style semi-theocracy. The Sadrists have always been anti-Iranian Iraqi nationalists but some of them supported an Iranian style theocracy but headed by an Iraqi cleric in Najaf.

Muqtada Al Sadr has never rejected democratic elections as ‘unIslamic’, only saying they could not be fully free under foreign military occupation - and he and his MPs have been part of the Iraqi government at some points since 2005.

In any case, with or without Sadr, if the majority of Iraqis want an Islamic state there will be one – and the occupation has so far increased support for one. For instance, as Naomi Klein noted in 2004, support for an Islamic state in polls of Iraqis went from 21% to 70% during the offensives of 2004 (97). So if we don’t want an Islamic state in Iraq maybe we should bring our troops home rather than target the Sadrists.

The Sadrists so far are similar in some ays to Hezbollah (or their Palestinian equivalent Hamas) and it’s quite likely that like these two organizations the Sadrists will want an Islamic state but will accept a non Islamic one if they can’t get the support of the majority of Iraqis for one. The Sadrists are probably the largest or second largest Shia faction in Iraq – but they’re also Iraqi nationalists and the Shia are merely the largest minority in Iraq, not a majority. So like Hezbollah and Hamas they will have to accept that they can’t have everything their own way – and so far they have.

Muqtada Al Sadr’s predecessor and cousin Baqir Al Sadr for instance supported an Islamic democracy with clerics restricted to the role of elected judges under a democratically elected executive and legislature (98). While Baqir and Muhammad Al Sadiq Al Sadr said they accepted Velayat e faqih (rule by a religious hierarchy) their versions of it differed from the Iranian system based on Khomeini’s version of Velayat e faqih (rule by a religious hierarchy headed by a single cleric with supreme power). SCIRI/SIIC – the largest party in the Iraqi government – follow Khomeini’s teachings even more closely than the Sadrists (99).

The appeal to Al Sadr of an Islamic state headed by a theocrat in Iraq might also be reduced by the probability that that theocrat might well be Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani or his named successor (who would be unlikely to be Al Sadr). In Shi’a Islam candidates for Grand ayatollah must work their way up through the ranks of clerics by first finding an established cleric to teach them and then pass theological exams. Al Sadr’s own qualifications are modest, though he is allegedly studying in Iran - and his mass support among Iraqis could possibly get him the position of Theocrat one day if he wants it.

The Madhi army have killed people in enforcing what they have claimed to be Al Sadr’s religious edicts. The question, as usual, is whether Al Sadr actually gave these orders or if those Madhi army members are out of control .)

It’s a bit ironic for the Coalition to warn of the dangers of Sadr’s potential dictatorship though given that their past support for Saddam as dictator in the 80s, sanctions in the 90s and occupation today is the biggest cause of support for Sadr among Iraqis. The preferred candidate of the British and American governments in the 2005 elections was Ayad Allawi – a former member of Saddam’s Mukhabarat (secret police) who used to work in Europe targeting Iraqi dissidents under the cover of being a doctor (100). By the 90s he was organising car and cinema bombings using CIA money in Baghdad (101). Allawi as interim Prime Minister in 2004 headed a government whose forces used systematic torture and had the victims confess to terrorism on television. He also shot prisoners in the head according to diplomats of several countries who say they were told to watch as he did (102). True he was secular, not religious. Just like Saddam back in the 70s and 80s. He got advisers and campaign money from the Bush administration and Blair government in 2005 (103).

Iyad Allawi , who Bush and Blair appointed Interim Iraqi Prime Minister and backed in the 2005 elections. A former member of Saddam's secret police, then an organiser of car and cinema bombings for the CIA, he lost.

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The occupation keeps increasing support for extremists – whether Sadr is an extremist or a moderate trying to rein them in

An Iraqi man and boy cry after dozens, including children, are killed in a US military raid on Sadr city, August 2007.

Some of Al Sadr’s aims – to end the occupation and ensure that his supporters – the poorest and unemployed Iraqi Shia – get a fair share of the country’s oil wealth – are not reprehensible ones.

There is no reason (other than the US Presidency's obduracy and threats to overthrow any Prime Minister who disobeys its wishes) that the Iraqi government could not concede to the Sadrists on these issues while refusing to do so on issues such as womens’ rights (on which the government’s record is poor – for instance they ordered all women police to hand in their weapons despite an increase in murders of women accused of being ‘unIslamic’). If there were no foreign troops killing Iraqis, less people unemployed and better public services provided by the government then support for extreme views would almost certainly fall along with sectarianism and crime rates.

Nor are government and coalition offensives a response to Medhi army aggression. Al Sadr has repeatedly maintained ceasefires and realizes his militia is too weak to defeat US and Iraqi government forces militarily. The attacks are mostly by the stronger side against the weaker – i.e by the coalition and government, including infiltrating rival militias like the Badr Brigade, on the Medhi army and Al Sadr (104), (105). (The Medhi army, far from being the strongest militia in Iraq, is one of the weakest in terms of equipment and funding, since it has the full support of no foreign power (such as Iran which backs the Badr brigade) and its supporters are mostly in poverty.)

Killing or jailing Al Sadr won’t end the conflict. Dozens of Sadr’s family and predecessors as leaders of the Shia poor were killed by Saddam – it never ended the influence of the Shia poor and their leaders. Killing Muqtada wouldn’t either.

More military defeats of the Medhi army won’t help either. The Medhi army’s political influence has increased even as it has suffered heavy losses against coalition forces, with Iraqi government forces often defecting or refusing to fight when ordered to attack the militia.

The rest of Iraq’s Shia parties in the Iraqi government have also shown that when it comes to it they are unwilling to see the Sadrists completely broken – as they realize that, while they are rivals, the US government is seeking to divide and conquer the Shia due to conflating being Shia with being pro-Iranian. They know, as former Iraqi government minister Ali A. Allawi, pointed out, that if the Sadrists were crushed other Shia parties could be next (106).

Whether looked at morally or ‘pragmatically’ negotiating with the Sadrists is a better option than a war to try to crush the poorest Iraqi Shia into accepting unemployment and poverty.

This remains true even if Sadr and his immediate subordinates do turn out to be extremists who want to murder Sunnis and ‘unIslamic women’, because war, foreign occupation, mass unemployment, poverty and lack of education has increased support for these kind of extremists - and because military offensives and raids end up killing far more people than they could possibly save. (Support for Al Sadr among Iraqis has rocketed in opinion polls as the occupation has dragged on.)Conversely peace, education and jobs lead to falling crime rates and a fall in support for extremist parties.

Saddam’s dictatorship was always brutal and - in the 1980s and 1991 – genocidal, but when Iraq was prosperous in the 1970s and 1980s it developed an educated middle class who were more secular in outlook and largely non-sectarian. The sanctions imposed after the Gulf War led to a massive rise in unemployment and fall in education levels. This was partly due to corruption by Saddam’s regime but the vast majority of it was due to a fall in the income of the entire country due to sanctions. Much of the crime, extreme politics and religion and sectarian violence in Iraq today is a result of sanctions and dictatorship followed by an almost equally brutal occupation and sectarian killings (107).

It’s impossible to know to what extent Al Sadr genuinely tries to prevent sectarian and extremist killings of Sunnis and women or not. What is certain is that the occupation and the profits being made at the expense of lost Iraqi jobs, lives and public services are increasing support for Al Sadr and the membership of the Madhi army, increasing the number of people in Iraq backing extreme forms of religious fundamentalism and as a result increasing sectarian violence and violence against women. They are also producing a growth in crime (often linked to sectarian conflict) – such as the kidnapping for ransom of Sunnis by Shia and vice-versa. This process began under Saddam’s dictatorships and sanctions on Iraq but the occupation has made these problems worse, not better.

The US occupation cannot defeat the Sadrists or the Madhi army any more than the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the 80s and 90s could defeat Hezbollah – because in both cases the extreme violence and other negative effects (poverty and unemployment) of the occupation itself is what created an extreme response by many of the occupied people.

Meanwhile coalition and Iraqi government offensives in cities are, as usual, killing at least one non-combatant for every armed opponent – and torture by the forces of the new government, as much as by militias, is as common as under Saddam. Coalition and Iraqi government offensives against the Madhi army have been repeated many times and just like past offensives they will not lead to any conclusive result in the long term other than more people – Iraqi, American and British – dead or homeless - and more Iraqis turning to religious nationalism (108), (109), (110), (111).

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The Solution – Replace Occupation and Military Offensives with Reparations and Debt cancellation

It’s time this counter-productive bloodbath, which only benefits a tiny minority of Iraqis, Americans and Britons at the expense of the rest, was ended, by bringing our troops home and offering an effective solution instead in the form of massive foreign aid to provide employment, education and welfare which would reduce extremism. We certainly have a responsibility to sort the chaos our governments created in Iraq – we can do that best by reparations or foreign aid though, not by military fiascos that make things worse.

How to deal with the militias is a chicken and egg riddle. Do we provide security by arresting the criminals in the militias first to allow Iraqis the security they need to get jobs and reconstruction? ; Or should we provide jobs and reconstruction to draw members out of the militias to allow the hard-core of criminals to be isolated and arrested without fighting a military conflict? So far the ‘security first’ approach has failed, partly because full scale military offensives destroy economies and strengthen extremists and partly because reconstruction has been a sham. So as the International Crisis Group argue, the jobs first approach should be tried (112).

Iraq’s foreign debts built up under Saddam should be cancelled. . The United Arab Emirates has already cancelled Iraq’s entire debt to them (113). How can the US and Russian governments refuse to forgive theirs in order to twist Iraqi’s arms into giving them cushy oil deals first?

The governments who supported him for decades (which include the US, UK , most of Europe, Russia and China) then punished the whole Iraqi population with sanctions, bombing, invasion and occupation do have a responsibility to ‘fix what they broke’. They can do this most effectively not by more pointless military action which costs lives and feeds extremism but by massive war reparations or foreign aid – and not going to companies based in their own countries or to relatives of the corrupt Iraqi government but direct to the people through community groups and aid agencies.

Iraqis are owed something after the suffering they have been put through over decades by governments including the US, Chinese, British, French, German and Russian. They are owed a future in which some of their children should survive and be allowed to live lives free of constant fear, poverty, unemployment, torture, hunger and random violent death in future.

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

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Sources and notes

Background : Sadr, the Madhi army and US forces in Iraq

(1) = AP / The Independent 8 Mar 2007, ‘We'll have to talk to militants, says US chief in Iraq’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/well-have-to-talk-to-militants-says-us-chief-in-iraq-439367.html ; Back

(2) = In April 2004 the US commander in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, said “the mission of US forces is to kill or capture Moqtada Sadr” and the head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid, said the IGC intended to "bring Sadr to justice. (see BBC News 13 Apr 2004, ‘Iraqi police 'retake' holy city’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3623297.stm ); Back

(3) = Sanchez recounted a video conference in April 2004 in which President Bush said “We can't allow one man to change the course of the country,” stated Bush in a video teleconference. “He must be wiped out.” Sanchez claims this mission was called off due to the upcoming 2004 US Presidential elections in November. (see Time magazine website ‘Muqtada al-Sadr’ By Ricardo Sanchez, http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1733748_1733757_1735554,00.html )Back

(4) = CNN 15 April 2004, ‘Iraqi cleric open to disarming, spokesman says’, http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/14/iraq.main/index.html; (see 2nd paragraph)Back

(5) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 13, pages 196-7 of hardback editionBack

(6) = ABC News 13 Feb 2006, ‘Al Sadr Fled Iraq, Fearing U.S. Bombs’, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/IraqCoverage/story?id=2872953 ; Back

(7) = Fox News 12 Nov 2007, ‘Gen. Petraeus Meets With Al-Sadr Deputies’, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,310697,00.html ; Back

(8) = Washington Post 7 Dec 2007, ‘Petraeus Says Cleric Helped Curb Violence’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/06/AR2007120602822_pf.html ; Back

(9) = Reuters 29 Mar 2008, ‘Baghdad curfew extended indefinitely’, http://www.reuters.com/article/homepageCrisis/idUSL2952315._CH_.2400 (Maliki calls the Madhi army ‘worse than Al Qaeda’) Back

Iranian backed criminals, sectarians and murderers?

(10) = According to a Pentagon report in 2006 “The group that is currently having the greatest negative affect on the security situation in Iraq is Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), which has replaced al-Qaeda in Iraq as the most dangerous accelerant of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence in Iraq.” (see Report to Congress November 2006, ‘Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq’, p19, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010Quarterly-Report-20061216.pdf ) Back

(11) = Human Rights Watch 29 Oct 2006, ‘Iraq: End Interior Ministry Death Squads’, http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/10/29/iraq14473.htm ; Back

(12) = Dispatches, Channel 4 (UK) Broadcast: Tuesday 07 November 2006 11:00 PM, ‘Dispatches : War on Terror : Iraq’s Death Squads’, http://www.channel4.com/news/dispatches/article.jsp?id=158145 ; Back

(13) = The Independent 31 March 2008, ‘Al-Sadr calls ceasefire after six days of clashes’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/alsadr-calls-ceasefire-after-six-days-of-clashes-802735.html ; Back

(14) = Observer 30 March 2008, ‘Shia fighting threatens to bury hope of united Iraq’, Back

(15) = Telegraph 30 March 2008, ‘Iraqi army forces defect to Moqtada al-Sadr’, Back

(16) = Confusingly the Iraqi government’s Basra offensive in March did target one other militia according to Norwegian academic Reidar Vissar – the Tharallah milita, a pro-Iranian, ally of the pro-Iranian SCIRI or SIIC party. Since SCIRI are the largest party in the Iraqi government this seems strange – unless Maliki, Dawa , the US military and Muqtada Al Sadr were co-operating to attack Tharallah and pro-Iranian elements within the anti-Iranian Madhi army?; or else Iran’s government is simply trying to keep Iraq’s Shia divided so they can influence them more easily? ;see Visser, Reidar 9 April 2008, ‘Maliki, Hakim, and Iran’s Role in the Basra Fighting’, http://www.historiae.org/iran.asp ; Back

(17) = Sunday Times 16 Dec 2007, ‘Tossed from a car and shot in cold blood’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article3056693.ece ; Back

(18) = Guardian 17 Dec 2007, ‘UK has left behind murder and chaos, says Basra police chief’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/17/iraq.military ; Back

(19) = The Times 8 Dec 2007 , ‘Basra's murderous militias tell Christian women to cover up or face death’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article3018766.ece ; Back

(20) = CBS News 11 Dec 2007, ‘Iraqi Policewomen Ordered To Turn In Guns’, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/11/the_skinny/main3605610.shtml ; Back

(21) = Report to Congress November 2006, ‘Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq’, p19-20, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010Quarterly-Report-20061216.pdf ; Back

(22) = Independent 20 May 2007, ‘Mehdi fighters 'trained by Hizbollah in Lebanon'’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/mehdi-fighters-trained-by-hizbollah-in-lebanon-462289.htmlBack

(23) = Independent on Sunday15 Apr 200, ‘The Iranian connection: from Tehran to Baghdad’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-iranian-connection-from-tehran-to-baghdad-444721.htmlBack

(24) = 110,000 AK47s supplied to Iraqi government forces by the US have gone missing , many now used by militias - see Guardian 7 Aug 2007, 'The US arsenal lost in Iraq', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/07/topstories3.usa ; Also see Gareth Porter 06 Jun 2008, 'Arming our own enemies in Iraq : Bush officials claim that Iran has supplied grenade launchers to Iraqi militants -- but the real source of the weapons is U.S. negligence', http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/06/06/grenade_launchers/ ; Back

(25)= Visser, Reidar (2007) ‘The Surge, the Shiites and Nation Building in Iraq’ in The Terrorism Monitor 13 Sep 2007 (Vol 5, Issue 17) ; http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2373640.org ; Back

(26)= Guardian 27 Jan 2007, ‘'If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1999917,00.html; Back

(27)= Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 14, pages 209-210 of hardback edition Back

(28)= Kaldor, Mary (1999) ‘New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era’, Polity Press, 1999 Back

(29)= Melvern, Linda (2000) , ‘A People Betrayed : The Role of the West in Rwanda’s genocide’, Zed Books, London and N.Y, 2000 Back

(30) Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p122-130PBack

Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 13, pages 196-7 of hardback edition

(31) = See section of this article ( Get Sadr ?) on ‘A struggle over resources’ and sources for it; further info and sources in another article i'm writing - will link it when complete Back

Many Sunni militiamen paid by US military murdering and threatening Shia - they include former Al Qa'ida fighters

(31a) = Guardian 10 Nov 2007, 'Meet Abu Abed: the US's new ally against al-Qaida', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/10/usa.alqaida , cited by Patrick Cockburn (2008), ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 17, p252-3 & 265 ; Back

(31b) = Sunday Times 25 Nov 2007, ‘American-backed killer militias strut across Iraq’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article2937104.ece ; Back

(31c) = Guardian 20 Dec 2007, 'A surge of their own: Iraqis take back the streets', http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2229892,00.html ; ; Back

(31d) = NPR 17 July 2008, 'U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police', http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11240000; Back

(31e) = Guardian 1 Aug 2007, 'Tehran the target of huge arms deal, says Rice', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/01/usa.iran ; Back

(31f) = Guardian.co.uk 31 July 2007 11am, 'Rice defends Middle East arms sales plan', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jul/31/usa.egypt; Back

(31g) = New Yorker magazine ‘The Re-direction’ by Seymour Hersh, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/05/070305fa_fact_hersh; Back

(31h) = ABC News 03 Apr 2007, ‘ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran’, http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/abc_news_exclus.html; Back

Sadr the Sectarian?

(32) = Newsday 23 May 2005, ‘A violent cycle in Iraq : Retaliatory killings, mainly involving Shias and Sunnis, threaten to throw country into deadly civil war’, http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/ny-wosect224272672may23,0,5314425,print.story?coll=ny-worldnews-headlines ; Back

(33) = BBC News 24 Feb 2006, ‘Friday prayer plea for Iraq calm’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4747886.stm ;Back

(34) = Times 4 Sep 2005, ‘Al-Sadr vows revenge on Sunnis over stampede deaths’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article562294.ece (note – the text of the article shows the headline is very mis-leading – Sadr neither blamed all Sunnis nor called for revenge on them – the 1st sentence of the 3rd paragraph reads ‘al-Sadr identified “Ba’athists and Saddamists” and “fanatic sectarians” as likely culprits. “The number of dead is sufficient for us to prove that this incident was organised,” he said.’ This could well be paranoia that makes revenge attacks on Sunnis more likely, but its certainly not a call for revenge on all Sunnis.) ; Back

(35) = CBS 24 Nov 2006, ‘ Iraqis Burned Alive In Revenge Attacks Mosques And Homes Burned, Unknown Number Killed Following Massive Attack On Shiite Slum’, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/23/world/main2207491.shtml ; Back

(36) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 16, pages 229-232 of hardback edition; also see ch17 page238 ; Back

(37) = International Crisis Group 11 Jul 2006, ‘IRAQ’S MUQTADA AL-SADR: SPOILER OR STABILISER?’, http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/leaders/2006/0711muqtada.pdf ; Back

(37b) = Guardian 10 Apr 2004, ‘Sunni and Shia unite against common enemy’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/10/iraq.rorymccarthy1 ; Back

(37c) = Guardian 10 Apr 07, ‘Moqtada rallies Shia to demand withdrawal of foreign troops’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2053247,00.html ; Back

Is Sadr behind the assassination of his rivals?

(38) = Times 10 Apr 2003, ‘Briefing: the killing of Majid al-Khoei’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/tools_and_services/specials/article1128976.ece ; Back

(39) = BBC 10 April 2003, ‘Shia leader murdered in Najaf’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2936887.stm ; Back

(40) = Guardian 12 April 2003, ‘Obituary : Abdul Majid al-Khoei’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2003/apr/12/guardianobituaries.iraq ; Back

(41) = National Review Online 15 April 2003, ‘Killed in “Free Najaf”’, http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-taheri041503.asp ; Back

(42) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 10 p149-158 of hardback edition ; Back

(43) = Eye Raki blog 04 Jul 2007, ‘The Untold Story’, (written by Haider Al Khoei, son of the murdered cleric) ; Back

(44)= Allawi, Ali A. (2007), ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p 90-93 ; Back

(45)= CBS News 22 Oct 2003, ‘Friend And Foe’, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/21/60II/main579155.shtml ; Back

(46) = Guardian 22 Oct 2003, ‘Plan to arrest maverick Iraqi cleric for murder’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1068114,00.html ; Back

(47) = Human Rights Watch 25 Jan 2005, ‘Iraq: Torture Continues at Hands of New Government’, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/26/iraq10053.htm ; Back

(48) = Amnesty International Annual Report 2008 (covering 2007), Middle East and North Africa, Iraq , http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/iraq ; (also see http://www.duncanmcfarlane.org/who's_right_on_Iraq/torture/ and the sources at the bottom of that page) ; Back

(49) = Raphaeli, Nimrod (2004) , ‘Understanding Muqtada al-Sadr’, in Middle East Quarterly Fal 2004, http://www.meforum.org/article/655 (refers to unpublished document alleged to provide evidence of Sadr being guilty of ordering Khoie’s murder) ; Back

(50) = Allawi, Ali A. (2007), ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p59-60 ; Back

(51) = New York Times 12 Apr 2008, ‘Gunmen Kill Aide and In-Law of Iraqi Cleric’, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/12/world/middleeast/12iraq.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin ; Back

Misogynists oppressing and murdering women?

(52) = BBC News 17 Mar 2008, ‘Firebrand Sadr finds moderation’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7301504.stm (see under sub-heading ‘Criminal Element’) ; Back

(53) = Washington Post 06 Oct 2006, ‘Another Freedom Cut Short Iraqi Barbers and Their Customers Feel Threat of Sect-Based Grooming Rules’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/05/AR2006100501825.html ; Back

(54) = BBC News 15 Nov 2007, ‘Basra militants targeting women’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7095209.stm ; Back

(55) = Walbridge, Linda S. , ‘The Most Learned of the Shi‘a: The Institution of the Marja‘Taqlid’, Oxford university Press US, 2001, pages 149-150, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_FVf4V4aXWgC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=Sadr+unIslamic+women&source=web&ots=e-kGzM0-_P&sig=DSSQIS_EQ9VkLbw0XVi2hZ_wuls&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result#PPA150,M1 ; Back

(56) = Assyrian International News Agency 31 Nov 2006, ‘Sadr Followers Target Assyrian School Girls in Baghdad’, http://www.aina.org/news/20061130101108.htm ; Back

Sadr’s unique sins and the war for the oil law ; A struggle over resources

(61) = BBC News 22 Feb 2008, ‘Profile: Moqtada Sadr’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3131330.stm ; Back

(62) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 13, pages 192 & 199-200 of hardback edition ; Back

(63) = Galbraith, Peter W. (2006) ‘The End of Iraq’, Simon & Schuster, Sydney (Australia) 2006, p197-203 ; Back

(64) = Observer 19 Aug 2007, ‘Oil giants rush to lay claim to Iraq’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/aug/19/oilandpetrol.news ; Back

(65) = New York Times 13 Mar 2007, ‘Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?’, By ANTONIA JUHASZ, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/opinion/13juhasz.html?_r=1&oref=slogin ; Back

(66)= COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OIL AND ENERGY COMMITTEE, Republic of Iraq, 15 Feb 2007 , ‘Draft Oil and Gas Law of 2007’, http://www.krg.org/uploads/documents/Draft%20Iraq%20Oil%20and%20Gas%20Law%20English__2007_03_10_h23m31s47.pdf (pdf file on Kurdish regional govt website) ; Back

(67) = Independent On Sunday 07 Jan 2007, ‘Blood and oil: How the West will profit from Iraq's most precious commodity’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/blood-and-oil-how-the-west-will-profit-from-iraqs-most-precious-commodity-431119.html ; Back

(68) = New York Times 13 Mar 2007, ‘Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?’, By ANTONIA JUHASZ, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/opinion/13juhasz.html?_r=1&oref=slogin ; Back

(69) = Tomdispatch.com 06 May 2007 ‘The prize of Iraqi Oil’ by Professor Michael Schwarz, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174779/michael_schwartz_the_prize_of_iraqi_oil" ; Back

(57) = BBC News 3 July 2007, ‘Iraqi cabinet backs draft oil law’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6264184.stm ; Back

(58) = Observer 10 June 2007, ‘Iraqi government threatens arrest for leaders of striking oil workers’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/jun/10/oilandpetrol.iraq ; Back

(59) = Guardian 10 Apr 2004, ‘Sunni and Shia unite against common enemy’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/10/iraq.rorymccarthy1 ; Back

(60) = Guardian 10 Apr 07, ‘Moqtada rallies Shia to demand withdrawal of foreign troops’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2053247,00.html ; Back

(70) = Guardian 3 Jan 2004, ‘How honest broker was defeated - and with him hopes of credibility’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1230291,00.html ; Back

(71) = http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1176394,00.html (see 4th from last and 3rd from last paragraphs on Bremer’s Order 39 in the new constitution) ; Back

(72) = General Federation of Iraqi Workers 21 Aug 2007 ‘USA: Trade unionists protest ban on Iraqi unions' http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/2007_08.html (scroll down to entry for August 21, 2007 ‘USA: Trade unionists protest ban on Iraqi unions’) ; Back

(73) = General Federation of Iraqi Workers 30 Jan 2004 'Interview with Iraqi trade union leaders imprisoned by US troops' , http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/2004_01.html ; 2nd item is on arrest of 8 trade unionists by US troops in raid on IFTU union HQ in December 2003 ; Back

(74) = International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions 5 Mar 2007, 'Military Raids, Arrest at Iraqi Union Office Demands Action', http://www.icem.org/en/77-All-ICEM-News-Releases/2159-Military-Raids-Arrest-at-Iraqi-Union-Office-Demands-Action GFIW union raided by US troops in March 2007, trade unionist “arrested” ; Back

(75) = Observer 5 Aug 2007, ‘Iraq imposes 'Saddam style' ban on oil union’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/aug/05/iraq.theobserver ; Back

(76) = International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions 19 May 2008, 'Iraqi Trade Union Conference Demands Repeal of Draconian Labour Decrees' http://www.icem.org/en/24-North-Africa-Middle-East-/2653-Iraqi-Trade-Union-Conference-Demands-Repeal-of-Draconian-Labour-Decrees ; Back

(77) = Allawi, Ali A. (2007), ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p428 ; Back

(78) = Jubilee Iraq, background, http://www.jubileeiraq.org/background.htm ; Back

(79) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 02 Apr 2006, ‘IRAQ: Food prices rise after reduction of monthly rations’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=26250 ; Back

(80) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 9 Sep 2007, ‘IRAQ: Food rationing system failing as Ramadan approaches’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=74196 ; Back

(81) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 17 Oct 2007, ‘IRAQ: Hundreds forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=74829 ; Back

(82) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 4 Dec 2007, ‘IRAQ: Government to cut items from its free food handouts’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=75677 ; Back

(83) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p 375-376, 430-431 ; Back

(84) = IPS/ Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail 03 May 2008, ‘Corruption Eats Into Food Rations’, http://dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/iraq/000795.php#more ; Back

(85) = IMF 01 Jan 2007, ‘Lebanon -- Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding’, http://www.imf.org/external/np/loi/2007/lbn/033007.pdf ; Back

(86) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) Ch20 , p348-369 & 427 ; Back

(87) = Refugees International 04 Oct 2007, ‘Iraq: Fix the Public Distribution System to meet needs of the displaced http://refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/9971/ ; Back

(88) = BBC News 22 Mar 2008, ‘Profile: Moqtada Sadr’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3131330.stm ; Back

(89) = USA Today 24 May 2004, ‘U.S. struggles to breach wall of Iraqi skepticism’, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-05-24-us-credibility_x.htm ; Back

(90) = On corruption , theft and lack of reconstruction see See (war on terror chapter and sources) ; Back

(91) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 10 April 2008, ‘IRAQ: “Acute shortages” in clash-hit Baghdad suburbs’, http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=77701 ; Back

(91b) = IRIN news service of the UN's OCHA 24 Apr 2008, 'IRAQ: Baghdad’s Sadr City residents under “strain” - ICRC', http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=77909 ; Back

(92) = UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Humanitarian Situation Report : Sadr City, Baghdad 15 April 2008 , http://www.uniraq.org/documents/HumSitRep15April2008.pdf ; Third paragraph of summary on page 1 says [referring to the government offensives beginning 25th March] "In the 21 days since clashes began a total of 597 people were killed in Baghdad City, of which 272 were Iraqi civilians (an average of 13 civilian casualties per day). Of the 597 casualties, 195 were killed in Sadr City. This compares to a total of 300 casualties in Baghdad in the 21 days prior to clashes, of which 164 were civilians (an average of 8 civilian casualties per day)." ; Back

(93) = Iraq Body Count Press Release 06 October 2004 , ‘No Longer Unknowable: Falluja's April Civilian Toll is 600’, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/press/archive.php#pr9 For a compilation of links to polls of Iraqis see Iraq Analysis , http://www.iraqanalysis.org/INFO/55 ; ; Back

(94) = Independent 4 Oct 2004 , 'Civilians bear brunt as Samarra 'pacified'', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/civilians-bear-brunt-as-samarra-pacified-550807.html ; Back

(95) = For a compilation of links to polls of Iraqis see http://www.iraqanalysis.org/INFO/55 ; Back

(96) = The Brookings Institution 2 July 2008, ‘Iraq Index : Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq’, p48-49, 52-53, http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex , http://www.brookings.edu/saban/~/media/Files/Centers/Saban/Iraq%20Index/index.pdf ; Back

Another Khomeini? Sadr the Theocrat?

(97) = Guardian 07 Oct 2004, ‘The making of a hero : Moqtada al-Sadr is a dangerous theocrat - but his appeal for Iraqis is that he calls for free elections’ Naomi Klein ,http://www.iraqanalysis.org/INFO/5 for a compilation of links to polls of Iraqis ; Back

(98) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 3, page 48 of hardback edition Back

(99) = Visser, Reidar (2008) , ‘The Sadrists of Basra and the Far South of Iraq’, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs 2008, http://www.historiae.org/documents/Sadrists.pdf ; Back

(100) = New Yorker magazine 24 March 2004, ‘Annals of National Security : Plan B’, By Seymour Hersh, page 5 , http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/06/28/040628fa_fact?currentPage=5 ; Back

(101) = New York Times 9 Jun 2004 ‘THE REACH OF WAR: NEW PREMIER; Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks’ ,http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FB0912F83D540C7A8CDDAF0894DC404482 ; Back

(102) = Sydney Morning Herald 17 Jun 2004‘Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses’ ,http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/16/1089694568757.html ; Back

(103) = New Yorker Magazine 25 July 2005‘Annals of National Security ; Get Out the Vote ; Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq’s election? ’ by Seymour Hersh ,http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/07/25/050725fa_fact?currentPage=4 ; Back

The occupation keeps increasing support for extremists

(104) = CNN 22 Feb 2008, ‘Al-Sadr extends Mehdi Army cease-fire’, http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/02/22/iraq.main/ ; Back

(105) = Independent 13 May 2008, ‘Al-Sadr ceasefire allows troops to enter Shia slum’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/alsadr-ceasefire-allows-troops-to-enter-shia-slum-827012.html ; Back

(106) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p321 ; Back

(107) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p122-130; Back

(108) = UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Humanitarian Situation Report : Sadr City, Baghdad 15 April 2008 , http://www.uniraq.org/documents/HumSitRep15April2008.pdf ; Third paragraph of summary on page 1 says [referring to the government offensives beginning 25th March] "In the 21 days since clashes began a total of 597 people were killed in Baghdad City, of which 272 were Iraqi civilians (an average of 13 civilian casualties per day). Of the 597 casualties, 195 were killed in Sadr City. This compares to a total of 300 casualties in Baghdad in the 21 days prior to clashes, of which 164 were civilians (an average of 8 civilian casualties per day)." ; Back

(109) = Iraq Body Count Press Release 06 October 2004 , ‘No Longer Unknowable: Falluja's April Civilian Toll is 600’, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/press/archive.php#pr9 ; Back

(110) = Independent 4 Oct 2004 , 'Civilians bear brunt as Samarra 'pacified'', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/civilians-bear-brunt-as-samarra-pacified-550807.html ; Back

(111) = Amnesty International Annual Report 2008 (covering 2007), Middle East and North Africa, Iraq , http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/iraq ; 2nd and 3rd last sentences of summary (for instance) says 'This added to the growing humanitarian crisis. Iraqi security forces also committed gross human rights violations, including unlawful killings, rape and other torture, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. The MNF killed civilians and held more than 25,000 detainees without charge or trial, including some who had been held for several years. Civilians were also killed by guards employed by private military and security companies who had immunity against prosecution in Iraq until October' ; Back

The Solution

(112)International Crisis Group 11 Jul 2006, ‘IRAQ’S MUQTADA AL-SADR: SPOILER OR STABILISER?’, http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/leaders/2006/0711muqtada.pdf ; Back

(113)Guardian 7 July 2008, ‘Emirates cancel Iraqi debt’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/07/iraq.middleeast ; Back

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

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