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December 14th, 2011 WW Staff | NikeLeaks Cables: Africa and Middle East
 

Iraq: ANTI-IRANIAN SHIA CLERICS SPEAK OUT

     
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Reference ID: 06BAGHDAD1570
Created: 2006-05-12 13:57
Released: 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Origin: Embassy Baghdad

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PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHMOS
DE RUEHGB #1570/01 1321357
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P 121357Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4399
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001570

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/12/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PINS, PNAT, PREL, PTER, KDEM, KISL, IZ
SUBJECT: ANTI-IRANIAN SHIA CLERICS SPEAK OUT

REF: BAGHDAD 1369

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBERT S. FORD FOR
REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Summary: Baghdad Shia imams Sheikh Ayad al-Ekabi
and Mahdi al-Shawki told PolOff in a May 7 meeting that
some Iraqi Sunnis accuse Iraqi Shia of being pro-Iranian
because of their opposition to the previous regime.
According to the imams, many Sunni Arabs equate opposition
to Saddam Hussein with treason, and therefore regard Iraqi
Shia as sympathetic to Iraq's enemies, especially their co-
religionists in Iran. In fact, al-Ekabi and al-Shawki
argued, many Iraqi Shia dislike Iran's meddling in Iraqi
affairs. To combat such prejudices, they argued, Iraqis
must be better educated. End Summary

---------------------------------------------
Reasons Why Iraqi Shia Are Labeled "Iranians"
---------------------------------------------

2. (C) In a May 7 meeting with PolOff, Baghdad Shia imams
Sheikh Ayad al-Ekabi and Mahdi al-Shawki said that Iraqi
Sunnis accuse Iraqi Shia of pro-Iranian sentiments.
Although the majority of Iraq's population are Shia, Saddam
Hussein's Sunni Arab-dominated regime discriminated against
the Shia, they said. Opposition to Saddam's tyrannical
regime was considered treason, they added, which during the
Iran-Iraq war equated to pro-Iranian sentiments.
Therefore, Iraqi Shia were viewed by Sunni Arabs as being
loyal to their Iranian co-religionists. In a thinly-veiled
reference to SCIRI members, they argued this is especially
true of the many Iraqi Shia who fled to Iran during the
Iran-Iraq War.

---------------------------
Iraqi Shia Are Anti-Iranian
---------------------------

3. (C) Quoting an Iraqi saying, al-Ekabi and al-Shawki
said, "Persians will never show compassion toward Arabs."
Iraqi Shia view Iranians as troublemakers, they said,
because Iranians are stirring up ethno-sectarian violence
in Iraq. The Iranians, they argued, work to destabilize
Iraq because they want the United States to fail in its
efforts to bring democracy to the region. Iraqi Shia, they
said, resent this meddling in Iraqi affairs and all the
violence and ethnic tension that results from it.

-------------------------------
Education to Increase the Peace
-------------------------------

4. (C) To reduce ethnic tensions, al-Ekabi and al-Shawki
both recommended improving Iraq's education system
(reftel). Iraqis need to be taught the similarities among
Iraq's various sects, they said. They added that Iraqis
must also learn the similarities they share with the United
States, pointing out that many young Iraqis who curse the
U.S. do so while wearing NIKE T-shirts. Iraq's Muslims
should also learn about the similarities Islam shares with
Christianity. "Islam and Christianity teach many of the
same basic values," al-Shawki argued. Al-Shawki also
suggested cooperative scientific endeavors among Iraqi and
U.S. scientists. By better educating the populace, al-
Ekabi and al-Shawki said, Iraqis would better understand
each other, and the West, thereby decreasing ethno-
sectarian tension.

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

5. (C) The statements of al-Ekabi and al-Shawki reflect
those of many of our Shia contacts: most Iraqi Shia are
Arab nationalists. There is obviously Iranian influence in
Iraq but it must be used subtly since even the majority of
our Shia contacts view Iran with distrust and suspicion.
Many Sunni Arabs opposed Saddam's regime and the imams'
categorization of all Sunni Arabs as Saddam supporters is
characteristic of the current sectarian divide in Iraq:
many Shia view all Sunnis as Ba'thists and many Sunni Arabs
view all Shia as supporters of Iran.

-----------------
Biographical Note
-----------------

6. (C) Mahdi al-Shawki is from a prominent Shia clerical
family. His father, Ali al-Shawki, serves on the staff of
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Born in 1972, Mahdi al-

BAGHDAD 00001570 002 OF 002


Shawki graduated from the Najaf-based hawza in 1991. He
leads the Friday prayers at the Al-Zahra Husseiniya
(Mosque) in Baghdad.
KHALILZAD

 
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