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Cable en el que se desvela que dirigentes religiosos de Nayaf recelan de la dominación ideológica iraní

EE UU manifiestan que no pueden competir con el dinero iraní y cuentan que los religiosos de Nayaf han pedido al Gobierno de Bagdad que no extienda los visados a los estudiantes iraníes para limitar la influencia de su vecino.

ID: 185694
Date: 2009-01-05 11:59:00
Origin: 09BAGHDAD11
Source: Embassy Baghdad
Classification: SECRET
Dunno:
Destination: VZCZCXRO9693
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0011/01 0051159
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 051159Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1100
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 000011

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2028
TAGS: PGOV, PINS, KISL, IZ
SUBJECT: NAJAF CLERICAL LEADERS FEAR IRANIAN IDEOLOGICAL
DOMINANCE

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Robert S. Ford for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S) SUMMARY. Three well-placed contacts in the Shia
holy city of Najaf told us December 27 that Iranian influence
there is strong and that Ayatollah Muhammad Said al-Hakim,
whose family has ties to Iran, likely will succeed the aging
Ayatollah Sistani. They each opined al-Hakim could begin
changing the Najaf clerical establishment's long-time
opposition to the concept of clerical rule (velayat-e faqih).
One contact stated that the Najaf clerics have secured
permission from the Iraqi government to start refusing to
extend student visas for Iranians studying in Najaf in order
to limit Iranian influence. Like many clerics here, these
contacts were keenly political and they obviously dislike and
fear the ISCI political party. They asked the U.S. to do
more in Najaf to help limit the Islamic Supreme Council of
Iraq (ISCI) and Iran but xxxxxxxxxxxxx was insistent this be done indirectly and
with extreme caution. END SUMMARY.


------------------------------------------
Iran, ISCI Spreading Velayat-e Faqih in Najaf
------------------------------------------

2. (S) PMIN and Poloffs on December 27, 2008 discussed with
contacts close to the Najaf hawza (seminary), Iranian
influence in Najaf and hopes for U.S. assistance in combating
those exposing velayat-e faqih (clerical rule). XXXXXXXXXXXX 3. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX decried the Iranian government's attempt to
directly and indirectly spread its influence in Najaf.
During the debate in the Iraqi parliament about the U.S.-Iraq
Security Agreement, XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Iranian Foreign Ministry
and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp Qods Force commander
Qasem Soleimani sent separate envoys to convince the
marja'iya to speak against the agreement. XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed
that the marja'iya responded that it would be inappropriate
for them to comment on a security/political issue as a way of
dodging Iranian pressure. XXXXXXXXXXXX also said Iran is giving
money to Iranian students in the hawza, primarily through
Supreme Leader Khamenei's office located in Najaf. Iran
generally disperses small amounts -- money for furniture or
books, for example -- but recently gave a large sum to help a
hawza student with his medical treatment, XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that through financing Shahid
al-Mihrab (Martyrs of the Pulpit) -- the Islamic Supreme
Council of Iraq's (ISCI) social and educational organization
-- Iran aims to spread the popularity of velayat-e faqih.
(Note. Shahid al-Mihrab is led by Ammar al-Hakim, ISCI's
heir apparent. It is also the name ISCI is using nationwide
for its provincial election coalition. End note.) XXXXXXXXXXXX said Shahid al-Mihrab must be receiving Iranian funding to be
able to finance its wide network of offices in Iraq and
abroad. (Comment: While driving through Najaf, PMIN noticed
the construction of a large Shahid al-Mihrab complex at the
1920 Revolution Square along the city's main East-West
boulevard on property owned in 2003 by the now ISCI-dominated
provincial government.)

------------------------------------------
"Moderates" Unable to Compete With Iranian Money
------------------------------------------

4. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX said in response to alleged infiltration by
Iranian intelligence, the hawza secured permission from the
Iraqi government to stand up a committee to review residence
permits of non-Iraqi students at Najaf's religious schools.
They have, he stated, allowed only the
few Iranian students who were present before the U.S.
invasion to continue their studies in Najaf. Other Iranian
students are not receiving renewals on their student
residence permits and are being asked to leave Najaf when
their permits expire.

5. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX did not make a particular pitch on
politics aside from warning about Iranian influence. By
contrast, XXXXXXXXXXXxx -- who also favor the
"quietist" clerical tradition of Sistani and Fayad -- were
pessimistic about the chances of "moderates" in the upcoming
elections because ISCI and Da'wa have been able to disperse
government jobs and contracts to boost their support. (Note.
XXXXXXXXXXXxx is a parliamentarian from former Prime Minister Ayad
Allawi's party and Kalantar, given the alternatives, probably
also supports Allawi. End note.)

BAGHDAD 00000011 002 OF 003



6. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXxx joked about ISCI's campaign slogan "With you,
with you," by rhetorically asking "with who? Iran?" When
asked about ISCI's history in Najaf, XXXXXXXXXXXxx pointedly said
ISCI had zero support prior to 2003 but were able to use its
Iranian-origin militia, the Badr Corps (now Badr
Organization), to gain power. Despite switching its
religious source of emulation to Sistani, XXXXXXXXXXXXX claimed
his Badr Organization contacts still refer to the Iranian
Supreme Leader as "Sayyid al-Wali" (the Master).

------------------------------------------
Fears of Grand Ayatollah Hakim Succeeding Sistani
------------------------------------------

7. (S) Our three hawza contacts fear that Iran's push in
Najaf coupled with ISCI's political dominance in the province
are increasing the likelihood that Grand Ayatollah Muhammad
Said al-Hakim will succeed Sistani as Iraq's lead cleric.
Hakim -- a nephew to ISCI chairman Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim --
favors Iranian velayat-e faqih, all three contacts said.
XXXXXXXXXXXXX claimed it was telling that Hakim last year told his
followers to celebrate the festival marking the end of
Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr) on the day announced by Iran's
Khamenei, not Sistani. XXXXXXXXXXXX was certain Hakim was now the
probable replacement. Rubai highlighted that fellow Najaf
Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi al-Pakistani has begun speaking in
favor of Hakim, something he was not doing only a couple of
years ago. XXXXXXXXXXXX each claimed that al-Hakim
and Sistani each give out relatively generous gifts of money
to needy students and professors -- this is how one helps
build influence, they observed. By contrast, al-Najafi and
Fayad have few resources for such gifts, they noted.

-------------------------------------
Seeking U.S. Support, But Carefully Done
-------------------------------------

8. (S)XXXXXXXXXXXX bluntly told PMIN the U.S. should, with a
hidden hand, fund moderate hawza groups to counter ISCI and
Iran. However, XXXXXXXXXXXX said the United States regularly
irritates the marja'iya by, for example, clumsily -- if only
briefly -- detaining important clerical figures. Perceived
American protection of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) also
raises questions about American judgment and intent, he
claimed. (He didn't argue when PMIN reviewed our policy on
MEK but he said our position was not at all clear in Najaf.)
XXXXXXXXXXXX added that U.S. officials releasing to the media the
contents of private discussions between the Coalition
Provisional Authority and top Najaf clerics had led the
clerics to decide not to speak to the U.S. directly. XXXXXXXXXXXxx advised that the U.S. should not associate itself with ISCI
cleric Jalal ad-Din al-Saghir because he is hostile to the
Najaf hawza. When asked how "moderate" groups planned to
compete in the provincial and national elections in 2009,
XXXXXXXXXXXxx clearly were defeatist and lacked a
practical vision. XXXXXXXXXXXxx fatalistically repeated that
"there must be a (political) explosion" before Iraq rids
itself of the religious parties.

--------
Comment
--------

9. (S) Our meetings with XXXXXXXXXXXxx
reflect a broad trend in Iraq: the disenchantment and
disorganization of those Shia leaders who feel locked out of
the political process and who feel ISCI and Da'wa have used
their positions in government to write rules favorable to
themselves. Many Shia still believe ISCI is controlled by
the Iranian government and that the Badr Organization wields
power covertly in Iraq. These Shia dismiss evidence that
ISCI is becoming increasingly responsive to its Iraqi
QISCI is becoming increasingly responsive to its Iraqi
constituents and over the past few years have explicitly
acted against Iranian interest -- for example, by supporting
the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement.

10. (S) Comment continued. The looming passing of Grand
Ayatollah Sistani makes Najaf pivotal for Iraq's ideological
future. XXXXXXXXXXXxx is a long-time contact of ours and, XXXXXXXXXXXXX is well-placed to give us insights
into the top clerics' thinking. He was extremely nervous
about being seen with PMIN and other American diplomats,
insisting on doing the meeting in XXXXXXXXXXxx not Najaf. His
skittishness reminds of how cautious Sistani and the other
ayatollahs are about being seen to meet with or collaborate
with the Americans. XXXXXXXXXXXxx was adamant that we should help
contain Iranian influence in Najaf but that it had to be done
indirectly by helping Iraqi organizations who themselves want
to limit Iranian influence. Overaggressive or direct U.S.
involvement in Najaf's religious scene would, according to

BAGHDAD 00000011 003 OF 003


his analysis, backfire, undercutting those pro-American
Iraqis walking a fine between religious purity and earthly
power that could be derived from U.S. support. If XXXXXXXXXXXxx
analysis is correct, Iraqis (and to a lesser extent Iranians)
will always be better placed than the U.S. to understand and
work within the nuances of Najaf's religious society. END
COMMENT.
CROCKER