Will Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr reconsider decision to retire?

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, February 18, 2014

There are so many interpretations, guesses and innuendos about the decision by Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr to retire from political life in the country.

Sadr was so clear in citing reasons for his decision which goes as far as rejection to have representatives in the Iraqi parliament; in other words he and his political faction, with a large popular base, will not be taking part in the forthcoming elections.

Sadr is disappointed with the performance of the government, which he denounced and wanted to have nothing to do with.

I disagree with those saying that the cleric will change his mind once the time for election comes because there are many influential figures in his own group who are eager to keep their strong bloc in the parliament.

I see Sadr’s decision not only a denunciation of the government but also a condemnation of the elections, because he believes they will bring nothing new to change conditions in Iraq for the better.

The decision to withdraw from the political process by a powerful political group like the one led by Sadr was so shocking that it renders any change of mind almost impossible.

Sadr did not take such a drastic decision only to withdraw later.

There are certain political factions who will surely be adversely affected by Sadr’s decision, but I do not think their pleas for him to reconsider his position would work,

The decision, in my opinion, does not reflect disappointment on a personal level. It shows that Sadr and his millions of followers are extremely unhappy with the status quo in the country, which has remained the same and is leaning more and more towards dictatorship as evidenced by some hegemonic practices and rampant corruption.

Undoubtedly, the decision will influence the Iraqi political scene to a great extent and probably in a decisive way.

The decision of such magnitude cannot be naively interpreted as a move by Sadr to leave the political process through the door and jump on it through the window.

Sadr was very clear in his decision that he and his group can no longer work with the same personalities and factions ruling the country.

The era after Sadr’s decision to retire from political life will not be the same as the era before it.

Sadr’s political faction is more immersed in the conscience of the Iraqi people than any other group. He cannot as the head of a popular movement ride a political wave for certain personal or factional gains. He also cannot become the ‘lackey’ of any foreign power or intelligence agency.

Those who are pleading with Sadr to reconsider his position do so not because they are concerned for the cleric’s standing and political influence. They fear for their own positions because without him on their side they will be exposed and easily beaten.