Iraqi Shiite Party rises as Sadr falls
The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq aims to capitalize on the disarray within Moqtada al-Sadr's movement ahead of provincial elections planned for October.
(Page 3 of 3)
ISCI is projecting itself as being uncompromising on security and the one party to be trusted to fight corruption, revive the country's crumbling infrastructure, and elevate the masses, particularly in the south, out of poverty.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Badr's Ameri says the sectarian conflict, insurgents, and the Mahdi Army are to blame for why many Iraqis are disillusioned with elected officials. "If there is a lack of services it's because of security. If there is no security, how can we attract foreign investors?"
Another big selling point that ISCI and Badr are hoping to make is that they are the wisest and most prudent in protecting the achievements of the once-oppressed Shiite majority population.
Ameri says they are the only ones that can balance deep and historic ties with Iran with their relationship with the US for the benefit of Iraq as a whole and the promotion of the political process as opposed to Sadr leveraging links with Iran to fight the US presence in Iraq.
"We are trying to strike a balance between the Grand Satan and the Axis of Evil," jokes Ameri, referring to Iran's favored label of the US and President Bush's reference to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Ameri says that they, too, like the Sadrists, want to see Iraq fully sovereign and free of US troops. The difference is that ISCI and Badr favor politics and negotiations.
There also is no indication that ISCI and Badr will abandon their strategy of overtly associating themselves with Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, the Najaf-based Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, as they did in the 2005 elections when they used his image on pamphlets and posters promoting the UIA.
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim shrugged off current efforts by some members of parliament to ban the use of images of religious clerics in campaign materials.
"These symbols are part of our identity and we want the voter to know who we are. We want to campaign using the religious symbols that both we and the Iraqi people have faith in," Hakim told reporters in Najaf.
ISCI, previously known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, was founded in 1982 in Iran by the late Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim when he was living in exile. Iran trained its armed wing at the time, Badr, to carry out operations across the border against Saddam Hussein's regime, with which it was immersed in war at the time.
Mr. Hakim returned to Iraq after the fall of the regime in 2003 and started preaching for a more active role of Iraq's traditionally quietist religious establishment in politics.
He was killed along with 84 others on August 29, 2003, as he left Najaf's Imam Ali mausoleum and mosque, one of the world's most revered sites for Shiites. The attack was blamed on extremists linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
[Editor's note: The original version misstated the type of elections scheduled for October. They are provincial elections. The original version also misstated the location of a meeting between Hadi al-Ameri and Moqtada al-Sadr. The two met in Iran.]