April 17, 2004


Iran's mullahs influencing resistance in Iraq (REZA LADJEVARDIAN, 4/15/04, Houston Chronicle)

After their recent naked power grab in Iran and the Iranian people's apathy toward the plight of the reformists, who consistently failed to deliver on their promises, the conservatives now feel more secure about their powerbase in Iran and are more emboldened to challenge America in Iraq. They now feel the best defense to ensure their position in Iran is a good offense in Iraq.

Al-Sadr has learned very well from his conservative role models in Iran. The vast majority of the Iranians didn't want a theocracy at the time of the revolution, but rather a democratic regime that respected their Islamic values. However, an organized and extremely militant group around Ayatollah Khomeini through force and intimidation outmaneuvered far higher ranking clerics such as Ayatollah Shariatmadari, who wasn't willing to shed blood.

Similar to how the taking of the American hostages resulted in the further radicalization of Iran's Islamic revolution and the marginalization of the more tolerant, democratic Islamic leaders, the present uprising is a power play by radicals such as al-Sadr to undermine and marginalize moderates, such as Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Al-Sadr is trying to copy Khomeini's formula. By setting himself up as the undisputable leader of the anti-American camp of the Shiites, al-Sadr hopes for a harsh retaliation by the American forces to boost anti-Americanism among the Shiites.

This way, he'll compel Sistani to increasingly become more critical of the American occupation or risk marginalization. Either way, al-Sadr will enhance his own prestige and following. He believes that through intimidation, he can also leverage his organized yet relatively small militant group.

Al-Sadr has consistently advocated for an Iranian-like theocracy, traveled to Iran and received considerable financing and training from Iran's Revolutionary guards. His pre-eminent father, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein, even argued for velayat-e faqi, in line with Khomeini's rule by jurists.

Al-Sadr is playing a pivotal role in the Iranian mullahs' Iraqi game plan by radicalizing the political environment.

We probably shouldn't violate the holy city of Najaf, but it sounds like al-Sadr could use killing. On Fresh Air the week, Juan Cole even said that some of al-Sadr's followers believe him the Hidden Imam--his death should at least dispel that notion.

-AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Middle East History Professor Juan Cole (Fresh Air, April 13, 2004)

A village laid waste: this is al-Sadr's law for unfaithful (Sunday Telegraph, 18/04/2004)

The destruction by religious extremists of an entire community gives a foretaste of life in Iraq if the hardline cleric takes control, writes Philip Sherwell in Najaf

On the dust-blown plains of central Iraq, Qawliya had long held a notorious reputation as a haven for prostitution, drug dealers and gun runners - until the village was reduced to rubble and its population driven from their homes.

The attack that destroyed Qawliya was launched by the Mahdi Army militiamen of Moqtada al-Sadr, the young clerical firebrand who has become the voice of anti-American discontent for many of the country's Shia Muslim majority.

It was this brutal display of Mahdi Army muscle last month - combined with the increasing power wielded by its Islamic sharia law courts - that finally persuaded Paul Bremer, chief US administrator of coalition forces, to declare al-Sadr an outlaw, The Telegraph has been told.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2004 8:59 PM

She's rewriting history. The Iranian Revolution was dependent on the rantings of Khomeini from Paris, which were spread around on cassettes.

It was Khomeini, not some imaginary peaceful senior cleric, who got the vast mobs into the street.

To say they didn't want mullahocracy is equivalent to saying they felt so strongly about Khomeini's message that they were willing to risk their lives for it but didn't like it.

Nonsense piled on nonsense, and Sistani is an Iranian mullah.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 17, 2004 10:14 PM

Not quite--Khomeini was more like Lenin, able to take advantage of coincidence because best organized.

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2004 10:21 PM

Not at all.

There were three large revolutionary parties in Petrogradm(the place that counted, the Kadets, Mensheviks and SRs, and the SRs also had strength in the countryside. And they were outmaneuvered by a small clique.

True enough.

The majority -- really, only -- revolutionary movement in Iran in the late '70s was Khomeinism.

Who else brought the mobs out of the bazaars?

Nobody. Not parallel at all.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 17, 2004 11:13 PM

Khomeini was only in France, for one year, the rest of his exile, he spent in Najaf; where
Saddamm did not move against him; at any time
since the early 70s; when he was the power behind
the myriad Baathist regimes. The point about the
various factions in pre-revolutionary Russia still

Posted by: narciso at April 17, 2004 11:24 PM

"Hidden Imam"? Here's an article I found over on Rantburg this morning:


and the original source:


Sadr isn't even in complete control of his "assets" in Najaf anymore. There are all sorts of miscellaneous thugs and gunmen slipping in to take advantage of the chaos, and the "Mahdi Army" seems to not be able to enforce law and order. "Hidden Imam", my foot. He can't even secure Shi'ism's holy city.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2004 8:37 AM

The Shah lost because the middle class turned against him--no one ever loses to the revolutionaries.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2004 9:21 AM

The Germans did.

It is clear as can be that the 1979 revolution was genuine, popular, Islamic and antidemocratic.

The backers expected to get an Islamic state -- at a minimum, they were prepared to defer to the theocrats -- that was efficiently administered and economically prosperous, by modern standards.

That can never happen, and now they want to shed what they see as inefficiency. They are not out burning down mosques, or even the clercial schools around them.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 18, 2004 7:25 PM


Nazism won at the ballot box--it was popular, not revolutionary.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2004 8:17 PM

By the way, I know you don't believe anything unless you read it personally, but you should try reading about the Iranian Revolution (indeed, about Shi'ism too) because you sound terribly ignorant:

Looking back at Iran's revolution (Tom Housden, 2/11/02, BBC)

The Iranian revolution unfolded amid high idealism and expectation.

Triggered by a number of social, political and economic factors the revolution began as a pro-democracy movement, but evolved into something that was no more egalitarian than the regime of Shah Reza Pahlavi it replaced.

What we had not predicted was that a 78-year ayatollah could forge together these forces and turn all of these volcanoes... into a real revolution

Stansfield Turner, former CIA director Revolution leader, Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, spoke of democracy and freedom upon his return from exile in Paris, and initially his government was dominated by liberal figures.

But few Iranians would have predicted that barely two years later Iran would be a theocratic state governed by strict Islamic law, with Ayatollah Khomeini established as supreme leader.

The origins of the revolution can be seen in a widening gap between sectors of Iranian society during the 1970s.

Class gap

A series of land reforms during the 1960s had resulted in an economic boom, increased per capita income, and had created conditions for rising social and economic aspirations.

But while the ruling elite continued to support the monarchy, many poor people felt they had not sufficiently benefited from economic growth and modernisation.

Iran's growing middle classes fluctuated between supporting the status quo - and thereby their own continued prosperity - and expressing desires for social democracy and for reform.

The catalyst came in 1974. Iran was hit by hyperinflation triggered by a combination of the economic policies of the Shah, and rising oil prices.

Poor Iranians suffered most. Those with fixed incomes experienced huge losses, while the economy stalled and discontent among the middle classes grew.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2004 9:07 PM

When did Naziism win at the ballot box? I missed that one.

Those mobs in Teheran didn't turn out for some peaceful old mullah. They turned out for Khomeini.

And if they thought they were getting democracy from him, they hadn't been paying attention.

I can remember 1979, and one statement struck me forcibly. Some academic expert said the US government was misinterpreting the situation because there were only about a dozen US academics who really understood what was going on.

Pretty arrogant, considering there were 50K Americans in Iran at the time (and a larger number of Iranians in the US).

It's probably true, though, that Turner didn't understand what was going on.

It was an Islamic revolution -- those weren't Christians or Bahais piecing together the shredded documents at the embassy -- and no one doubts it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 20, 2004 7:37 PM