Ayatollah Rising? Iran, Iraq, Sadr and Qom
So what exactly is Iran's plan for Muqtada al-Sadr? He has been effectively supplanted from any military command by the Iranians, and has been spending his time 'in study' in Qom, Iran. Here's an interesting consideration for a long-range project for Iran: Ayatollah Al-Sadr?
Two notable alumni of Qom’s centers of Islamic learning are the Ayatollah Khomeini, who spent ten years there, and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese jihad terrorist group Hizballah. Al-Sadr, while he is son of one Grand Ayatollah and son-in-law of another, is a seminary dropout and hardly a scholar of Islam. Now it appears that he has gone to Qom to resume his Islamic studies and eventually to emerge as an Ayatollah himself. An Ayatollah al-Sadr would have enough stature to be able to sideline al-Sistani, and would well-positioned -- especially given his illustrious pedigree -- to become the leader of Shi’ite Iraq after al-Sistani’s death, or even to shunt him aside before his death. And if al-Sadr was involved (as many have charged) in the April 2003 murder of a rival, the prominent Iraqi Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei, he may not hesitate to accelerate al-Sistani’s passing -- once he has the requisite religious credentials.
That won’t be for another five years at the earliest. However, the fact that al-Sadr has gone to study at Qom indicates that he has every intention of remaining a player on the Iraqi political scene for the foreseeable future -- and at age 35, he could be on that scene for decades to come. His overall agenda he made clear in the Al-Jazeera interview: “Another important goal is to make society religious, rather than secular. People keep talking about an ‘Islamic government’ and so on. What is more important is to make society, not just the government, Islamic.”Is Muqtada al-Sadr studying in Qom in order to position himself to become the Khomeini of a theocratic, Shi’ite Iraq? It’s a possibility that cannot be dismissed -- and one that, if it comes to pass, would establish a Shi’ite Arab client state of Iran, inalterably hostile to the United States, in the heart of the Middle East.
Two things support this conclusion from an Iranian perspective: It gets him out of the way now, and it might just pay off handsomely in the future. It's a good question from Robert Spencer. Consider also Brendan Koerner's How Do You Become an Ayatollah? at Slate.
If this comes to pass we will rue the day, recalling how in 2004 we had the Mahdi Army largely defeated and Sadr completely cornered, yet he was permitted to slither back into his base of power.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced Wednesday his militia would leave the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf, following a threat by the Iraqi government to "liberate" the holy site. In a letter issued by al-Sadr's office in Baghdad and read to the Iraqi National Conference, the cleric said he agreed to demands made Tuesday night by a delegation from the conference that he and his forces leave the mosque, disband his Mehdi Army and "enter into the mainstream political process."
Ah yes, the "mainstream political process." That worked out well. Might work out swimmingly for the Iranians if they can pull it off and successfully wedge the Nintendo Imam into the religious mainstream as a 're-educated' Ayatollah. Stranger things have come to pass, but not many. It would be a prime example of when bloodlines eclipse brainwaves.