Written by – Elijah J. Magnier:
Before the parliamentary elections in Iraq, the Arab and international media were buzzing with expectations that Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr would become the “kingmaker” and that he would lead Iraq in the future. After the elections, Al-Sadr won a single political party’s most significant parliamentary seats. Still, he could not reach an alliance that would secure the two-thirds quorum necessary for selecting the new President. Moqtada failed to achieve his objective and gave up after his first and only attempt to lead the political process. Sayyed Al-Sadr consecutively adopted a series of politically immature decisions, starting from forcing the resignation of his 73 MPs to asking his followers to occupy the street (a game he masters) and most constitutional institutions. He then crossed the line and exchanged fire with the supporters of the Vice President, the former Prime Minister and his archenemy, Nuri al-Maliki, and with the security forces before he ordered his supporters to withdraw “immediately” from the “Green Zone”. That was possible following the direct intervention of the supreme authority in Najaf, Sayyed Ali al-Sistani, who asked Sayyed Moqtada to stop the absurd fighting and bloodshed within the same Shia sect.
Thus, Moqtada quickly lost all his cards, with the result that he remains a less influential leader in the current domestic political arena. He awaits the appropriate opportunity, which will be next October at the anniversary of the “Tishreen movement”. If joined by the Sadrists, the movement has the power to bring down the current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, even as it toppled its predecessor Adel Abdel Mahdi.
Al-Sadr will not be able to go anywhere or take any practical step at present, not because he lost his popularity, especially since his followers are obedient to the Sadr family, but because he exhausted all his cards within such a brief period. Moqtada went from being the humble statesman visiting all the leaders of the Shiite parties in Baghdad. At the same time, he was victorious in his recent announcement that he rejected all other Shia political leaders and wanted to rule Iraq alone.
Al-Sadr allowed his supporters to engage in street fighting from Monday afternoon to the middle of the following day without reacting, despite vigorous contact by Sayyed Ali al-Sistani during the first hours of the clashes and the next day. This confirms that Al-Sadr’s goal was to show his strength in the face of the other Shiite party, which did not hesitate to exchange fire with the Sadrist demonstrators but did not bow, as Al-Sadr expected. This prompted Sayyed Moqtada to hold a press conference and reject the inter-Shia fighting he had allowed for twenty hours. However, it is worth noting that the Sadrists were the initiators of the demonstrations and the occupation of public buildings without being the first to open fire.Moqtada announced that he retired permanently from political life– a decision he repeated in previous years – and that he would no longer interfere in politics. However, he resorted to his fictional account under the name “Muhammad Salih al-Iraqi”, claiming to be the “minister of the leader” Muqtada al-Sadr, to vent his anger. Al-Sadr took the gloves off to attack the leaders of the “coordinating framework” (his Shia opponent groups), starting with Faleh al-Fayyad
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