May 6, 2009


Muqtada comes in from the cold (Sami Moubayed , 5/07/09, Asia Times)

Muqtada is eyeing the day the Americans start leaving Iraqi towns and cities this summer, and like everybody else in the Iraqi scene, he wants to fill the vacuum. In other words, he is dying to be recognized by the world around him as a seasoned statesman, rather than a guerilla warrior, and to break the stereotype of him in the US media of being an Iranian puppet good for nothing except armed warfare.

Muqtada sees himself as another Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader in Lebanon, a man able to become an all-Iraqi, and eventually, pan-Arab statesman. Very noticeable is that he went to Turkey after having visited Iran, and he is likely to show up in Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, before December.

This repeats what has happened to leaders of military groups throughout history, when they reach a point where they are fed up with war and want regional or international legitimacy to rule, rather than be members of an underground movement.

Hamas in Palestine was a clear example in 2006. Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, now regarded as the leading pro-Western party in Palestine, is another example. In 1974, Arafat went to the United Nations and made his famous speech, "I come to you carrying an olive branch, and a freedom fighter's gun. Don't let the olive branch fall from my hand."

And now, Muqtada has gone to Turkey - perhaps somewhat unwillingly - carrying an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun - for everybody to see, Arabs, Iranians and Iraqis too. He is also telling them, "Don't let the olive branch fall from my hand."

We must remember that Muqtada is an Islamic and Arab nationalist at heart, who has always dreamt of establishing an Iran-like theocracy in Iraq, but which is nevertheless free of Iranian influence. He still sees Iraq as part of the greater Arab nation and cannot dislocate it from its neighbors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 6, 2009 6:11 AM
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