Monday, January 21, 2008

Iraqi Shi'a Divided by Sectarianism, Nationalism, and 'Mahdist' Messianism

Iraqi Shi'i cleric Dia Abdul-Zahra Kadhim Krimawi, former leader of the messianic Shi'i group Junud al-Janah (Soldiers of Heaven), who battled Iraqi security forces in January 2007. The group, which has been called a "cult" by Iraq's Shi'i Islamist*-dominated government, allegedly was planning to assassinate the five grand ayatullahs (senior Twelver Shi'i clerics) in the southern city of Najaf. Over 260 members of the group were killed in gun battles.

The current leader of the group, Ahmad Hassan al-Yamani, reportedly claims to be a deputy (na'ib) of the Twelfth Imam, a messianic religious leader who Twelver Shi'a believe to be in a mystical "occultation" from which he will return at an appointed time.

The following essay, written by a top-notch Norwegian Middle Eastern and Iraq specialist, provides an excellent, succinct analysis of the present state of Iraq's Shi'a today:

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