Seyyed Moqtada al-Sadr, one of the most prominent political-religious figures in Iraq has made a surprise announcement to quit politics. If he sticks to this decision, it will have serious repercussions for Iraq's politics that is heading for elections in two months' time.
Sunday February 16, 2014, 09:11 EST
Seyyed Moqtada al-Sadr, one of the most prominent religio-political figures in Iraq, announced late yesterday that he was quitting politics. The announcement, posted in a handwritten note posted on his website today, surprised many observers including his close advisors and supporters.
“I announce my non-intervention in all political affairs,” the note said. Seyyed Moqtada heads the Mahdi Army that had risen up against the US occupation forces in 2003 but ended his resistance activities in 2008.
The handwritten note added: “there is no bloc that represents us from now on, nor any position inside or outside the government, nor parliament.”
He warned: ”Whoever acts against this will be subjected to legal and religious action.”
The 40-year-old scion of the well-known Sadr family also said the Sadr movement will shut down all of its offices except for some charities.
In Iraq’s potpourri politics, the Sadr movement holds six cabinet posts as well as 40 seats in the 325-member Iraqi parliament making it the largest bloc. He said no political movement should use his or his group’s name.
Moqtada’s father, Seyyed Mohammed Sadeq and two of his brothers were gunned by agents of Saddam’s regime while another prominent relative, Seyyed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was executed by Saddam in April 1980. Seyyed Baqir’s sister, Bint al-Huda was also martyred at the same time.
Seyyed Moqtada’s statement said the move was to “preserve the reputation of al-Sadr (family)... and to put an end to all the wrongdoings that were conducted, or could be conducted, under their title.”
There is speculation in some quarters about whether his resignation is final since Moqtada has announced such resignations in the past only to withdraw when urged by supporters and friends.
The timing of this declaration, however, is significant. It comes only two months before national elections in April and at a time when Iraq is gripped by sectarian violence especially in Anbar province.