View Full Version : Death of Iraqi Clergy

06-10-2006, 11:41 AM
What is the significance of the 60 Sunni Imams or 30 Shi'ite Imams that have been killed over the past 16 months? Are these deaths worse than all the Iraqi Security Force deaths/killings b/c of the potential second and third order effects on Iraqi society writ large?

06-10-2006, 11:58 PM
The deaths of the Imams may grow to be problmatic in Iraq for security concerning secretatian violence, but lasting effects may be limited. Imams power and importance grow out of their ability to gather followers and traditional taxes provided to Imams. Therefore Imams who garner great wealth and presige such as Al Sistani have much more clout than a local Imam that has only a small following and limited power. However, there are seirous factions within the ####e and Sunni clerical establishments that also come into play. Such as, Sunni on sunni violence for helping the Coalition and ####e on ####e violence pitting those who hide in Iran, agianst those that faced the brutality of Saddam. Thus, deaths of Imams may be understood as local confrontations between competing factions or seen as sparking secretatin violence. Lasting effects from these actions wll probally lead to resentment and some bitternes without substantial violence if peace and security can be restored with in the country. However, if the pace of these actions quicken and continue to fan the flames of division and hatred between these to communities, it could lead to a wider civil war and failure of the Iraqi state when Coalition forces leave. Hope this helped, but for a good anyalisis on the subject i would sugest reading Ahmed Hashim's isurgency and Counter-isurgency in Iraq. He devotes a few chapters to these problems.


06-11-2006, 11:05 AM
Is it possible that Imams, like children, are a barometer/metric for the "radicialism" or level of violence in Iraq? Usually, clergy or children are seen as "off-limits" targets by most insurgents, due to the potential negative backlash as seen in El Salvador, Guatemala, and North Ireland.

Is it also possible that by killing off an entire generation of "old-men" who currently serve as Imams, and who have shown a propensity to survive during brutal times, such as during the Ba'ath Regime, that a new generation of "younger men" such as Moqtada al-Sadr will takeover control of the Sunni and Shia religious establishments?

What would happen if someone assasinated Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani? What if a terrorist targeted the Shrine of Ali (Najaf) or Shrine of Hussein (Karbala), and successfully carried out an Askariya Mosques type attack? Would the "old men" loose control?

06-11-2006, 07:59 PM
To start the radicalism of Iraq's clergy came about after Saddam's repression of the Shiite and Kurd uprisings. Saddam needing a way to restate moral authority, so he reverted to Islam and allowed a greater expression of faith for clergy, Army Officers, and the population as a whole, to a degree. This allowed those predisposed to Salfism (Islam as practiced by and a few generations following Mohammed) to come out of the shadows. Now fully free to express their views, it is more likely they are not becoming more radical, as they are now truly able to show their true colors. Further, Sunnis and to an extent Shiite’s lack effective political organizations allowing churches as seen throughout Central-South America to become platforms for political discourse.

It is true that in Islam that women, children, and clergy are not targets of war. However, within Islam people like Osama bin laden due not considered Muslims who do not adhere to his prescription of Islam as Muslims. Therefore, they are viable targets. Further Sunni's consider Shiite’s as less than Arab and polytheists, because of their belief in the "Mahdi" (Christ like savior set to return at the end of the world). Shiites further consider Sunni's as radical Baathist. Thus, their predispositions allow the insurgents and Shiite militias to have an out for killing each other.

Further, Imams do not have to be old or scholarly. Moqtada al-Sadr is a great case and point. He is young and appeals to the most desperate of Shiites. He has no real moral autherity except over his followers, which are localized, yet large. Conversely, many prominent Imams and Aytollahs were killed under Saddam during the late 70's and 80's. Moreover, Sunnis want a secular-central state. They believe this is the only way they can stop interference from Iran. More troubling, would be, as you proposed if Sistani or other relatively friendly Shiite clergy where assassinated and replaced by younger Imams looking to gain power and prestige by applying pressure to the coalition and trying to subdue the Sunni community.

Attacking Mosques is a very explosive situation. Sunni's often view, with the Arab world, that Shiite Mosques aren't that old or holy. Sunni insurgents want to send a message to Shiite’s, the coalition, and the public in general that they will not stop nor can the coalition protect them. Shiite’s could use this as they have to retaliate. Worse would be the inclusion of Iranian radicals who would retaliate against Sunni's. We can't control the border and more input from Iran who is training Shiite militias and providing intelligence assets could create an untenable situation for the Coalition. All in all, we have to provide greater security to religious assets and leaders in Iraq.

06-12-2006, 03:19 AM
Sunni scholars and Shiite clergy have a different moral " weight" with their respective communities. Killing Sistani will provoke an enormous bloodbath, there is no Sunni equivalent to his position in Iraq or elsewhere.

al-Sadr is a Shiite militia leader, not a religious authority and he is only a militia leader because his murdered father had been on Sistani's level, a Shiite marja (Object of Emulation).

There are not very many recognized marjas in Shiite Islam right now -I think there are currently four but I might be wrong - none of whom, as far as I am aware, support the "rule of the jurisprudent" system established by Khomeini in Iran. Interestingly enough, Ayatollah Khameini, Iran's Supreme Guide, is not a marja - he claims title to Grand Ayatollah status, a step below marja, but this is, I am told, viewed with some amusement given his scholarly credentials.