Shia-Islamist political actors in Iraq: Who are they and what do they want?
A report on the politics of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Sadr-movement, ISCI and Da'wa
The demise of the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 was an important watershed in Iraqi political history. Iraq had been governed by groups which belonged to the Arab Sunni minority since the Iraqi state emerged out of the former Ottoman Empire in 1921. More recently, new political actors are in the ascendancy, representing the Kurdish minority and the Shia majority in Iraq.
The subject of this report is the Shia-Islamist movement, which is the predominant political voice of Iraqi Shiites today. The objective of the report is to answer two fundamental questions: Who are they and what do they want?
The report provides an overview of the historical and ideational process, whereby Shia-Islam became politicised in Iraq and analyses each of the main contemporary political actors of the Shia-community: Grand-ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Da’wa Party, the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq and the Sadr Movement.
The report argues that the Shia-Islamist movement should not be viewed as a political voice of sectarian interest, but rather as an idiom in which classical political grievances such as ‘who gets what and who decides what’ are expressed. The Shia-Islamist movement previously denied political power, is seen as the political assertion of the majority group in Iraq. The report discusses issues such as democracy and Islamic Law, relationship to Iran and social constituencies in relation to the different Shia-Islamist groups.
The report concludes that in addition to the conflict between Sunni and Shia groups, there is an important unresolved conflict between the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq, which is pragmatic and mainstream, and the puritanical and populist movement of Moqtada al-Sadr. It further argues that this conflict needs to be resolved before the political focus may be changed from present sectarian (and short-sighted) issues towards the much more important collective and long-term interest of the Iraqi people, in promoting public security and economic development.
Shia-Islamist political actors in IraqWho are they and what do they want?
DIIS REPORT 2008:3, January 2008, 36 p.
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