Al Sadr’s Mouthpiece Chimes in on Iran, Secession and Saddam

The Oxford International Review, an international affairs journal, released their special coverage of Iraq in early November (and has subsequently been releasing transcripts each week). OIR has compiled exclusive interviews with Iraqi and coalition leaders. (The Iraq Special Edition in its entirety is available for purchase here, but Foreign Policy has an excerpted interview in their November/December issue.) The interview is with Baha al Araji, the spokesman of powerful Iraqi leader, Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr. Some highlights:

FP: What should be the role of Iraq’s neighbors?

BAA: They think that there is major collaboration between Iraqi Shia and Iran, but we will control this. It is a very big mistake to think that our community works at the behest of Iranian allies and friends.I don’t think Iran likes Iraq. Iran is the beneficiary of this current situation. Iran’s enemy is the United States, so Iran does everything in its power to fuel instability in the new Iraq so that Iran can remain strong and keep the United States distracted. The reason nobody is doing anything about Iran’s nuclear program is that they are all too busy trying to salvage Iraq.

FP: Do you think Kurdistan will split off from Iraq? Will the south also secede?

BAA: Of course other regions want to secede. Would you want to be part of this mess by choice? If you believed that you could build a prosperous life and leave the forces of violence to fight their own petty wars of attrition on the streets of Baghdad, you would do it. These threats of secession say nothing of Iraqi unity or fragmentation. People just want a normal life.

The release of these interviews is interestingly timed as President Bush faces decisions to be made about the future of Iraq. The Baker Commission’s recommendations are set to be released tomorrow. Like I have said before, I do not think al Sadr should be driving the decisions of the adminstration or those of the Iraqi government, for that matter, but nonetheless, al Sadr is a powerful dissenting voice (although by no means is he the only one) who could shape the future of Iraq much more than the President, the Baker Commission or the Pentagon, so it is best not to ignore him.

Hopefully Bush is springing for the entire edition.