Cooperation between Mustamerroun, the lead organisation from within the civic trend involved in coordinating the protests for reform in Iraq, and the Sadrist trend, has caused considerable controversy amongst activists and intellectuals in Iraq. Amongst those who reject this ‘alliance’ it is generally held that cooperation with the Sadrists, themselves deeply implicated in the development of a political culture of corruption and sectarianism, fatally undermines the credibility of the protest movement. For example, Iraqi intellectual, Sinan Antoon, writing in March 2016, noted that:
‘Perhaps the latest example of the haphazardness of those who talk in the name of the ‘civil society trend’ is the disintegration of efforts to justify their alliance’s joint appearance with the Sadrist trend. For the Sadrists represent a part of the political process that delivered the country into the ruin which she is currently drowning in.’
More recently, an alternative group has emerged from within the civic trend, Madaniyoun, which at its launch event stressed that: ‘We have not received any invitation from al-Sadr for a meeting, and we reject dialogue with any political body.’
Given the power of Shi’i Islamist parties in Iraqi politics and society, some kind of cooperation or joint platform between the Islamist component and the civic trend may well be a pragmatic approach if that latter is to have any chance of pressuring the government to deliver reforms. But can such an alliance go beyond a temporary marriage of convenience? A strategic accommodation between the two components restricted to the elite level leaves the two sides of the alliance fundamentally unchanged by their interaction in terms of the political ideas, values, and practices running through the two movements. This has important implications, since it suggests that were such a movement to move from a mode of political contestation to one of integration into the Iraqi political field, there would be a return to the sort of polarisation which has plagued other countries in the region where Islamist and secularist forces have competed in a democratic political field (e.g. Egypt’s recent experience under Morsi.)
Does the the Sadrist-Mustamerroun alliance function only as a temporary strategic cooperation, coordinated at an elite-leadership level? Or is there evidence of a deeper interpenetration and cross-fertilisation of political ideas, values, and practices between the two, including at a sub-leadership level? These are questions I hope to address in future posts.
Below is a translation of a summary of a recent meeting (5th July 2016) between Ahmad Abdul Hussein, one of the Mustamerroun leaders on the Higher Coordination Committee for the protests, and Muqtada al-Sadr. What is particularly interesting about this statement is that it indicates that cooperation between the two components is not to be limited to the strategic-organisational level, but will include the formation of media operations and intellectual and cultural seminars which would involve a crystallisation of the movements political ideas, values, and practices and their re-circulation throughout members, participants, and the Iraqi public. This sort of cooperation has fascinating implications, not least because the Sadrist trend is commonly thought of as fairly hollow in terms of political ideas, and thus, potentially more adaptable than Islamist strands with more explicit doctrines vis-a-vis the creation of an Islamic state.
More on this topic to follow…
مختصر محضر لقائنا مع السيد مقتدى الصدر أول أمس
تضمن اللقاء الآتي:
– مراجعة مسيرة التظاهرات والاحتجاجات منذ بدايتها نهاية شهر تموز العام الماضي و لحد الآن و تحليل النتائج و المعوقات و الحلول المقترحة.
– مراجعة عمل اللجنة المركزية و آليات تطوير عملها و إضافة لجان فرعية إعلامية و قانونية.
– تشكيل لجنة بغداد و تطوير لجان المحافظات المشتركة وإضافة لجان مناطقية في كل محافظة.
– إقامة ندوات فكرية و ثقافية موسعة لكل فئات الشعب العراقي المتوقع وجود استجابة لديها وشرح مشروع الإصلاح و الخطوات السابقة ومقتضياتها وأسباب كل خطوة لتكون الصورة واضحة لدى المراقبين من أبناء الشعب.
– الاهتمام بالرأي العام العالمي وخصوصا المنظمات الدولية والانسانية وإيصال قضية الشعب العراقي و معاناته.
– تم الاتفاق على فتح أبواب أخرى للضغط السلمي على الحكومة خصوصا الضغط القانوني.
– التحضير للتظاهرة المليونية المقبلة يوم الجمعة 15 تموز .. و التحشيد لها بقوة.
– تحديد مطالب التظاهرة والتي ستعلن قريباً.
– أكد الصدر تبرؤه من كل فاسد وبخاصة ممن يُحسب على التيار الصدريّ.
– أكدنا موقفنا الثابت المتمثل في المضيّ قدماً على طريق التغيير.
– أكدنا على الالتزام بالسلمية تحت كل ظرف وإلى النهاية.
Summary of proceedings for our meeting with Muqtada al-Sadr the day before yesterday.
The meeting consisted of the following:
- Reviewing the progress of the protests and demonstrations from their beginning in July last year up to the present and analysing the results, constraints and proposed solutions.
- Reviewing the work of the central committee and mechanisms for developing its work, and adding media and legal subcommittees.
- The formation of a Baghdad committee and the development of joint committees for the provinces and the addition of a zonal committee for each province.
- Creating intellectual and cultural seminars, open to all sections of the Iraqi people in order to explain the project of reform, the previous steps and their requirements, and the reason for each step, in order to form a clear picture to all observers from amongst the people
- A concern for global opinion, especially of international humanitarian organisations and communicating to them the situation the Iraqi people and their suffering.
- An agreement to open other avenues of peaceful pressure on the government, especially legal pressure.
- Preparation for the next ‘March of Millions’ on 15th July, and forceful mobilisation for it.
- Defining the demands of the protest, which will be announced soon.
- Al-Sadr confirmed his disavowal of all corruption, and especially that which has been accorded to the Sadrist trend.
- We affirmed our firm position of continuing down the path of change.
- We confirmed out commitment to peace under all conditions, until the end.