Mentor in Iran keeps distance from radical anti-US Iraqi cleric Sadr
by Siavosh Ghazi and Laurent Lozano
QOM, Iran, April 29 (AFP) - Radical Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr's mentor in Iran, Grand Ayatollah Kazem Hossein Haeri, denies Sadr has the right to wage a "jihad" holy war against coalition forces in Iraq in his name.
At least that was the word from the Iraqi ayatollah's brother and spokesman, Mohammed Hossein Haeri, in an interview with AFP. Haeri, himself a cleric, was also unwilling to confirm reports that the young firebrand Sadr was the ayatollah's representative in Iraq.
"For us to approve of the activities of Moqtada Sadr, he would need to coordinate with our office in Najaf, something he has not been doing," said the brother of the ayatollah who lives in the holy city of Qom, central Iran.
"Neither Ayatollah Haeri nor any other Iraqi religious leader has declared jihad. So one cannot attack the occupation forces, unless they attack Iraqis, then they have the right to defend themselves," he said.
Some in the US military, which has clashed repeatedly with Sadr's Mehdi Army followers, contend the ayatollah is an inspiration behind the deadly Shiite revolt in Iraq and even a voice of Iranian policy.
Tehran is on record as calling for stability in its western neighbour and has also kept its distance from Sadr, although it shares his goal of foreign forces being withdrawn from Shiite majority Iraq.
Sadr's militia is being armed by some parties within the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the Americans. Grand Ayatollah Haeri, 65, has been living in exile since 1976.
In Iraq, he was a leader of the Dawa party, and then took a leading role in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which was Iran-based but has become the main party in post-Saddam Iraq.
The ayatollah has officially given up active politics to concentrate on religious teaching. Dozens of young Iraqi pilgrims flock to his office each day and collect copies of his "opinions" on Islam."The Americans must leave Iraq as soon possible. How can we accept a Muslim country being governed by infidels?" he asks.
His brother said the ayatollah does not send any instructions to Sadr, but only replies to questions. Sadr, who is wanted by the Americans in connection with the murder last year of a moderate rival cleric, has visited Qom himself and carries strong credentials as a son of the late Ayatollah Mohammed Sadegh al-Sadr.
The two ayatollahs were friends, until Sadr was assassinated by the regime of Saddam Hussein.Mohammed Hussein Haeri said that Sadr and the most influential Shiite leader in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, a moderate, while poles apart, were both important for the Iraqi people."Ayatollah Haeri cannot decide between the parties," explained analyst Hassan Hashemian.
"He is basically on the same wavelength as the Iranians. In private, they do not hide their satisfaction at seeing the Americans in the quagmire of Iraq as Moqtada Sadr complicates their job," he said.
According to the brother, Ayatollah Haeri has not decided to return to Iraq. "The farther you are from the (American) enemy, the more effective you can be," he reasoned. http://www.iranmania.com/news/290404e.asp
"the ayatollah does not send any instructions to Sadr, but only replies to questions"