US embassy cable - 04BAGHDAD119

USEB 58: Shia Leaders Petition on Behalf of Sadr

Identifier: 04BAGHDAD119
Wikileaks: View 04BAGHDAD119 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Baghdad
Created: 2004-07-12 18:21:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PINS KISL IZ
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 121821Z JUL 04
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0163
INFO SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC
IRAQ COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L  BAGHDAD 000119 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2024 
TAGS: PGOV, PINS, KISL, IZ 
SUBJECT: USEB 58: Shia Leaders Petition on Behalf of Sadr 
 
1. (U) Classified by DCM James Jeffrey, Reason 1.4 (B) and 
(D). 
 
2. (C) Summary:  Last week, influential Shia leaders, 
including the Dawa and SCIRI parties, asked Prime Minister 
Allawi to defuse the tension in Najaf by dropping, at least 
temporarily, the charges against Muqtada al-Sadr.  They 
told Allawi it would be preferable for Sadr's militia, the 
Jaysh Al Mahdi(JAM), to become a political movement.  A 
senior IIG official said Allawi's initial reaction was 
skeptical but said the Prime Minister might be convinced to 
be more accommodating with Sadr and his unruly militia. 
End summary. 
 
----------------------------------- 
TOP SHIA POLITICIANS PLEAD FOR SADR 
----------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) IIG National Security Advisor Moaffak Al-Rubaie told 
MNF-I LT. General McColl, and Embassy POLMIL and POL 
Counselors on July 7 that thirteen members of what he 
called the "Shia Caucus" (in Arabic, "Bayt Shia" or "Shia 
House") delivered a letter about defusing the problem with 
Muqtada al-Sadr to Prime Minister Allawi earlier this week. 
The thirteen included representatives from the Dawa party 
and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, 
as well as the Badr Corps.  Former Governing Council 
members Ahmed al-Barak and Mohammed Bahr al-Aloum were also 
in the group, he said.  Al-Rubaie gave PolCouns a few 
minutes to read the signed Arabic letter (but wouldn't let 
us have a copy). 
 
4. (C) The letter opened with the petitioners' referring to 
a recent letter from al-Sadr to the Bayt Shia asking for 
their help in defusing the problems between him and the 
IIG.  It said the Bayt Shia wanted to build on the work of 
the Joint Coordination Committee now established between 
the Najaf governor and the Office of the Martyr Sadr in 
Najaf.  The petitioners said they hoped the IIG would 
support the Bayt Shia's effort to move from a ceasefire in 
Najaf and Kufa to a period of "accord" ("ittifaq" in 
Arabic). 
 
They proposed four steps: 
 
-- Prime Minister Allawi would personally engage to help 
solve the problem with Muqtada al-Sadr. 
 
-- Armed men in the two holy cities of Najaf and Kufa would 
agree to leave and go home.  (Comment: To Baghdad's Sadr 
City and elsewhere in Iraq.  End comment.)  They would 
thereby agree to end their occupation of mosques, religious 
schools and shrines, and government buildings.  In 
addition, all sides would agree to cancel Sadr's Shari'a 
court rulings over an agreed period. 
 
-- The IIG would agree to suspend ("taaleeq") the legal 
case against Muqtada al-Sadr until the coming ("inbithaq") 
of an elected government in Iraq. 
 
-- The JAM would be developed into a political organization 
throughout Iraq. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
AN IMPORTANT BAGHDAD AYATOLLAH WEIGHS IN TOO 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Al-Rubaie told us that on the night of July 6 Allawi 
and Al-Rubaie called on Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr at the 
Gadhimiya Mosque in Baghdad.  According to Al-Rubaie, 
Hussein al-Sadr said it would be best for the IIG not to 
deal with Muqtada al-Sadr directly.  Instead, the Ayatollah 
advised, the IIG should try to find suitable men around al- 
Sadr with whom the IIG can work.  (Comment: Ayatollah al- 
Sadr advocates avoiding violence and has been friendly to 
the coalition, though in earlier meetings with CPA, he 
generally urged that we take a tough law-enforcement 
approach with his nephew, Muqtada.  End comment.) 
 
------------------------------------------- 
PRIME MINISTER: INITIALLY SKEPTICAL, BUT... 
------------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) Al-Rubaie added that Allawi's initial reaction to 
the Bayt Shia petition was to recall that Muqtada al-Sadr 
had not recognized the IIG and instead had called it 
illegitimate.  Allawi wondered why, in this case, the IIG 
should suspend the legal case.  Al-Rubaie speculated, 
however, that Allawi might eventually decide it would be 
best to strike a more accomodating stance. 
 
7. (C) POLMIL Counselor cautioned that the coalition would 
not want to work with Muqtada al-Sadr, given that al-Sadr 
was a criminal charged with a crime.  Al-Rubaie stated that 
if Iran controlled al-Sadr then the IIG had to take a 
tougher line.  Al-Rubaie commented in passing that if al- 
Sadr represented a more genuine constituency, then it would 
be harder to exclude him.  He thought the Prime Minister 
might ultimately draw the same conclusion. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
8. (C) As we are reported earlier, the JAM remains very 
much present in Najaf and Kufa, including at the Imam Ali 
Shrine; the custodian of the Imam Ali Mosque, for example, 
has not been able to return to Najaf.  It seems likely, 
therefore, that the petitioners received at least an 
informal blessing for their approach from key Najaf Hawza 
figures such as Ayatollahs Sistani and Mohammed said al- 
Hakim.  It is more surprising that the Bayt Shia would 
support the JAM becoming a political movement, as an al- 
Sadr political movement could poll well in some parts of 
Iraq at the expense of Dawa and SCIRI.  The more moderate 
Shia religious parties may reason that Muqtada al-Sadr 
would add Islamist seats to the parliament overall and they 
would thus be in a better position to form a largely Shia 
Islamist coalition with him.  Provided Muqtada al-Sadr and 
his supporters avoid provocation, this petition and the 
advice from Ayatollahs such as Hussein al-Sadr will make it 
harder for Allawi to exclude Muqtada's supporters from the 
political process. 
 
NEGROPONTE 

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