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Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD293, BLUEBLOOD SHIA CLERIC COMMENTS ON "BACKWARD"

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD293 2008-01-31 15:03 2010-12-05 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO8340
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0293/01 0311555
ZNY CCCCC ZZH ZDK
O 311555Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5519
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000293 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2023 
TAGS: PGOV PREL IZ
SUBJECT: BLUEBLOOD SHIA CLERIC COMMENTS ON "BACKWARD" 
SADRISTS AND SISTANI'S FEARS AND FRUSTRATIONS 

REF: 08 JAN 08 BAGHDAD O/I (SELF-PROCLAIMED SISTANI 
EMISSARIES) 

BAGHDAD 00000293 001.2 OF 002 


Classified By: Political Counselor Matt Tueller for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 

1. (C) Summary: Scion of a prominent Najafi clerical family 
and related to both Grand Ayatollah Sistani and Moqtada 
al-Sadr, Emad Klanter told us January 30 that bumbling Iraqi 
politicians fail to make progress of any sort but actively 
encourage a public perception of "American Occupation" 
through statements to vernacular media. He predicted Sadr 
would extend his JAM militia freeze order beyond February, 
and advised that we can change the "backward" Sadrists and 
contain their movement but only if we adopt a more balanced 
approach to their arch-enemy ISCI. Klanter pleaded for USG 
pressure on the GOI and political blocs to hold early 
provincial elections under an "open list" system, adding that 
no one but the Sadrists and Sistani are eager for elections. 
He claimed that his maternal uncle Sistani is alarmed by the 
degree of Iranian penetration in Iraq and is frustrated by 
his lack of indirect contact with the USG. Klanter warned 
that only Sistani and the Marja'iyyah can stand up to Iran 
and Shia extremism, adding that if the USG does not 
strengthen Sistani, "Iran will devour Iraq." End Summary. 

"Our Brains Are In Our Eyes" 
---------------------------- 

2. (C) Son of a respected Najafi Ayatollah, nephew to Grand 
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, related by marriage to Muqtada 
al-Sadr, and bearing a faint resemblance to the actor Robert 
De Niro, Klanter is a direct descendant of the Prophet 
Muhammad but was not wearing the traditional Shia Sayyid's 
garb of black turban and cloak during our meeting at the IZ 
villa of Saad Jabr, a Saddam-era exile opposition financier 
and son of Iraq's first Shia Prime Minister. Claiming he had 
recently met with Prime Minister Maliki, Klanter bemoaned the 
ineffectuality of Iraq's political leaders and warned that 
the gap between these leaders and the Iraqi people is growing 
wider by the day. He stated that while Maliki might be able 
to entice Iraqiyyah and Tawafuq to rejoin his government, 
neither ISCI nor the Kurds want anything beyond superficial 
changes to the status quo. When we informed him that USG 
patience is wearing thin with the pace of Iraqi political 
process, Klanter appeared incredulous that the U.S. would 
even consider scaling-down in Iraq "because you destroyed a 
regime and now you bear the responsibility to build up a 
replacement. If you leave there is a 100 percent certainty 
of civil war, which might happen anyway even if you don't 
leave." Swinging his arms into an abbreviated "Gator Chomp" 
type of gesture, he said that if the U.S, leaves "Iran will 
swallow us whole." 

3. (C) Small wonder that the Iraqi people feel as though they 
are living under "American Occupation," Klanter maintained, 
because Iraqi politicians - Shia, Sunni, and Kurds alike - 
routinely use terms like "occupation" and "occupiers" when 
referring to the USG presence in Iraq during interviews with 
local media. The forty-something Shia cleric, who told us he 
teaches religious classes in Najaf's traditional Shia 
seminary (Hawzah) and also operates a media-oriented NGO, 
defied us to name one Iraqi politician who has ever referred 
to Americans as "friends" in local or Pan-Arab media. When 
Iraqi politicians talk to Sistani and the Marja'iyyah, he 
continued, "they blame you for all of Iraq's problems, even 
their own failure to deliver public services." He chided the 
USG for dealing exclusively with Iraq's political class and 
ignoring contact with the Iraqi people. Employing an Iraqi 
proverb that says "our brains are in our eyes", Klanter 
exclaimed that Iraqis find it almost impossible to believe 
news reports that the USG has spent billions of dollars in 
Iraq "since we don't see any buildings or hospitals or 
structures that you have built here." He chuckled softly 
when we replied that the important thing is for the Iraqi 
people to see the GOI constructing buildings and other 
structures for their benefit. 

Sadrist Insights and Elections 
------------------------------ 

3. (C) Klanter, whose two brothers are reportedly married to 
sisters of Moqtada al-Sadr and who claims to maintain good 
relations with many senior Sadrists, said that Sadr will most 
likely extend the freeze on his Jaysh al-Mehdi militia beyond 
its scheduled expiration at the end of February. 
Characterizing the education level and mentality of most 
Sadrists as "backward, almost like they are from a cave," 
Klanter told us the USG can contain such people and change 
their thinking by "sending them to the U.S. and exposing them 
to new ideas." In reply to our rejoinder that we seek 
cordial relations with Sadrists who wish to participate 

BAGHDAD 00000293 002 OF 002 


peacefully in Iraq's democratic future, Klanter replied that 
"they hear you say this but then they look at your unbalanced 
relationship with ISCI and they don't believe your words." 
Klanter added gratuitously that, in his opinion, ISCI is more 
dangerous than the Sadrists because it is fronting for Iran. 
Conceding that some part of Sadr's movement is allied with 
Iran, he said Moqtada remains popular because "even though he 
is in Iran, we hear that he is constantly quarreling with the 
Iranians." Jabr chimed in that the USG has unwittingly 
driven Sadr into Tehran's arms. 

4. (C) Klanter pleaded for USG pressure on the GOI and 
political blocs to hold early provincial elections: such 
pressure will be needed, he claimed, since no one but the 
Sadrists and Grand Ayatollah Sistani are eager for elections. 
Characterizing the 2005 "closed list" electoral system as a 
failure, Klanter also urged us to push for an "open list" 
system. He said the Sadrists can live with either an open or 
closed list system "because they know they have a very loyal 
base of popular support and they realize they will not be 
able to attract other voters beyond that base." "Even though 
I am a man of religion," Klanter asserted, "I don't support 
religious political parties because they have been shown to 
be a complete failure in Iraq and in Iran." 

Frustrated Sistani Wants More Indirect USG Contact 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

5. (C) Repeating many of the points he made during a January 
8 meeting and which he claimed were conveyed to him directly 
by Sistani (Ref A), Klanter said Sistani's greatest fear is 
the degree of Iranian penetration in Iraq. He claimed that 
Sistani is in possession of detailed Iranian plans to 
dominate Iraq's political, economic, and religious 
institutions. Klanter added that Sistani wants to know what 
the USG is planning to do about this (we note that we have 
heard unsubstantiated reports that Klanter may have ties to 
Iranian intelligence and is held at something like arm's 
length by his maternal uncle Sistani). He said Sistani is 
now more open to indirect contact with the USG than ever 
before and is frustrated that previous emissaries were not 
reliable: we pointed out to Klanter that Fouad Ajami and 
Ahmad Chalabi, two claimed "emissaries" who Klanter cited by 
name, are not carrying messages for the USG. He said 
Sistani's failure to hear from the Americans is leading the 
Grand Ayatollah to think that there might actually be some 
merit to a circulating Iraqi public conspiracy theory that 
the USG and Tehran have done a deal over Iraq. Klanter ended 
the meeting by warning that only Sistani and the Marja'iyyah 
can stand up to Iran and Shia extremism, adding that if the 
USG does not support Sistani, "Iran will devour Iraq." 


BUTENIS