MUQTADA AL-SADR….Who is Muqtada al-Sadr? He seems to have popped up out of nowhere to most Americans, but his roots in Iraqi politics run as deep as George Bush’s in American politics. Juan Cole recommends this very good profile of the Sadrist movement in the Christian Science Monitor:
While Moqtada’s religious credentials are weak, his family’s political standing is as deep as the modern history of Iraq. His grandfather was the prime minister in 1932. And this young, militant cleric didn’t spontaneously emerge after the fall of Saddam Hussein. US forces now entering the city of Najaf, are up against a man who has donned the well-cultivated mantle of his father (Sadek al-Sadr), the leading Shiite thorn in the side of the Hussein regime in the 1990s.
….By 1999, Sadek al-Sadr was openly attacking Hussein’s rule. He called for Shiites to stop making direct donations to the Shiite clergy, since he said some of the money was being diverted to the regime for use on “women and liquor.”
….This all proved too much for the regime. On Feb.18, 1999, the car carrying Sadek al-Sadr home to Najaf was riddled with bullets in an ambush, and he was killed along with two of his four sons. Most of his supporters believe Sadr survived the initial attack and was later finished off at a Najaf hospital.
….Sadek al-Sadr had left instructions for his followers to take religious instruction from Kazim al-Hairi, a cleric based in the Iranian shrine city of Qom. But on April 8, 2003, Hairi issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, calling on his followers to listen to Moqtada and to ignore the US occupation, urging the Shiites to take power for themselves.
The whole story is well worth reading.