More reports of possible divisions between SCIRI and Jaafari’s Dawa party, and the greater game with Iran
The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance is often viewed as a united block of Islamist, but the fact is there are serious divisions within the party. The four large blocks, Hakim’s SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) party, Jaafari’s Dawa party, al-Jabiri’s Fadhila party, and Sadr’s faction do not always agree on the future course of their party and Iraq.
On March 2, MEMRI’s Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli looked at “The Difficulties of Forming the New Government in Iraq”, and provided details on the divisions between the individual parties that make up the UIA, as well as background information on the Kurdish, Sunni and secular Shiite parties. Dr. Raphaeli notes “Al-Sadr has two potent opponents – the Kurds and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of SCIRI. If these two political groups should join forces with Allawi and the Sunnis, an entirely new political situation could emerge.”
There is further ancillary evidence of a split in the UIA between SCIRI and the Sadr/Dawa alliance. Reuters notes “Publicly, SCIRI officials say they continue to back Jaafari…” and SCIRI’s Hakim “has publicly criticized what he has called U.S. interference and specifically Khalilzad’s role in Iraq, where political leaders see him as a key player in negotiations… But there are indications Shi’ite rivals are ready to try to drop Jaafari to break the impasse. Iraqi political sources have also said Washington does not want Jaafari to continue.”
On March 13, Ali at A Free Iraqi provided an account of the divisions between Hakim and Sadr, based on reports in the Arab media. Ali’s report of Sadr threatening Hakim and members of the UIA meshes with Dr. Raphaeli’s statement that Sadr threatened to incite a civil war if Jaafari was not selected as Prime Minister.
She’at [Shiite] sources confirmed to Al-Watan that “Al-Hakeem complained to Sistani that he’s being under pressure from Iran and has been receiving threats from the Sadr trend of inciting chaos and violence in case Ja’fari was replaced by Adil Abdil Mehdi” Clarifying that “Sadr made direct threats through a phone call to Al-Hakeem that he would kill all women members in the UIA and leaders in the SCIRI if Abdil Mehdi replaced Ja’fari”. According to the same sources “Iran replaced it’s strategic alliance with Al-Hakeem by one with Sadr who visited it last month” Announcing “His militias’ readiness to defend Iran in case it was attacked by the US” and pointed out that ” His supporters started intimidating acts against the British forces in Basra provoked by the Revolutionary Guard intelligence stationed in the city who finance and supervise those militias”.
In a conversation with Peter Paraschos, an analyst based in Washington, DC, he noted Iran’s desire to maintain a united UIA and highlighted the strategy unfolding on the poltical front:
On the 24th, Khalilzad essentially read the Iranians the Riot Act, highlighting their support of the Mehdi Army and Ansar Al Sunnah. Brilliant. That ought to cause further dissension within the UIA, but so far, no outright schism. Iran is probably working overtime behind the scenes to keep the Shiite bloc united. And the Shiites themselves are probably scared that any show of disunity could really hurt them at the hands of their traditional oppressors. From Tehran’s perspective, if the UIA comes unglued, and a true national unity government forms, then Iran’s golden opportunity to assert its control over the Iraqi government will have passed.
Sadr, and by default Iran’s influence in Iraq, is now being targeted for. Again, the strike against Sadr’s militia in Hayy Ur should be viewed as an opening act to defang the militias, cleave off support of Sadr’s faction within the UIA, and check Iran’s influence within Iraq.
Mr. Paraschos’ statements, combined with the reports from Ali, Reuters and Dr. Raphaeli, also puts Hakim’s public support of Sadr in context, as well as the virtual silence of SCIRI and Fadhila on the attack on Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Silence is not support. Fence-sitting is an age old political posture, particularly in the Middle East and in Iraq, where Saddam had a way of making examples of those who boldly took a position. Some members of the UIA are now waiting for the strong horse to emerge.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.