Friday, May 11, 2007

SCIRI no More?

Iraqslogger on possibly major news out of Shia Iraq: SCIRI, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is breaking with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and replacing him (as spiritual head) with Iraqi Cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

From the article:
The scope and details of the SCIRI reforms remain unclear. While a party official told Reuters that the changes are intended to “Iraqify” the party, by making Ayatollah Sistani –- who resides in Najaf -- its new spiritual authority, a rupture with Khamena'i and the Iranian-inspired Islamic Revolution would signify an enormous shift in the party’s ideology. SCIRI is one of the most popular Shi'a parties in Iraq. It was founded in Iran by Shi'a Iraqi dissidents in the early 1980s and took its inspiration from the Khomeinist revolution in Iran in 1979. As is well known, the Iranian revolution did not perceive itself as a localized movement in Iran, but as a beginning of an internationalist revolt that would eventually involve all of the “disinherited” of the earth in an uprising against tyranny and injustice. In that sense, SCIRI – as the party’s name indicates – saw itself as the “Iraqi branch” of the Khomeinist movement. Al-Hayat said that a statement by the party announced that SCIRI will change its name, and remove the term “revolution” because “it signified combating Saddam Husain.” That argument is patently incorrect, since the party’s literature and history clearly indicate that it did not perceive itself as a mere movement of contestation against the defunct dictator, but as an extension to Khomeini’s revolutionary vision.
As the article correctly points out Ayatollah Khomenei's vision of the Rule of the Jurist was itself a radical transformation of Shia theology and history. His specific vision of a ruling jurist has failed. As I've argued repeatedly here in this blog, Shia Iraq is not going to be a version of Khomenei's Shia rule. That form is dying on the vine in Iran. But what Khomenei did bring about was the rise of Shia power.

In other words, the Shia are bypassing the Sunni heading into a blue/orange mix, while the Sunni remain locked in red tribal/warlord/dictator patterns.

This does not mean of course that SCIRI is breaking off ties completely. But it is I imagine having to hedge its bets against the possibility of US strikes on Iran. And more importantly, my guess, is that this change (if it is to be lasting and real) is necessitated by the fact that the group is viewed as a Persian (not native Iraqi) group.

SCIRI is losing out big time, according to recent reports, to the Mahdi Army in Southern Iraq. The SCIRI need to re-brand to get next generation, young local support among the poor Shia, where Moqtada al-Sadr and his group is spreading like wildfire.

SCIRI is better organized as a political party but the Mahdi Army has social service outreach and the charismatic anti-US anti-occupation Sadr. The SCIRI owes a lot of its current influence to the US and as the US leaves it is going to have to say it is pro-Iraqi, pro-Shia without being beholden to Iran.

Sistani comes from the old line of more pacifist Shia leaders who believe the world is fallen and wait for The Mahdi. Sistani has kept the Shia together in order to gain their rule after Sunni oppression, especially after the failed Shia moment in 1928. But what this might mean is interesting. Sadr is said to be getting closer ties (via training his militia) with Iran at the moment Reuters is proposing that SCIRI is pulling back somewhat.

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