With election results showing a close race between PM Maliki's list and the Iraqi National Alliance list headed by Iyad Allawi, many in Iraq are floating the idea of Jaafar Mohamed Baqir al Sadr (a liberal, modernitst, secularist ex mullah), who won a parliamentary seat as a candidate on Maliki's list as a possible next prime minister for Iraq.

The biggest surprise of the last election came in the number of Baghdadis who voted for Seyyed Jaafar, outnumbering the Baghdadis who voted for PM Maliki.

The name of Jaafar al Sadr was first floated as a result of the anger and indignation felt by many civic Shiite Iraqi elites at the atrocities committed by Muqtada's Mehdi Army in Baghdad and elsewhere. This started speculation in Iraq that the liberal Seyyed Jaafar, who enjoys good relations with most Iraqi politicians, could be a better candidate than the rigid Maliki to form Iraq's next government.

The rise of Seyyed Jaafar is being followed closely by US authorities in Iraq. Seyyed Jaafar is not nown to have had direct relations with US representatives in Baghdad, yet he is reputed to be a liberal, a patriot and a modernist who favors the separation of religion from state affairs. He is in favor of the "dialogue among cultures," fostered by Iran's ex president Mohamed Khatami, a distant relative of Seyyed Jaafar.

Still, a "Sadr" at the head of Iraq's new government? Who is Jaafar Mohamed Baqir al Sadr?

He is not Muqtada, but a less-known figure outside of Iraq, and one who can compete with Muqtada -- whom he does not carry in his heart - as the son of a Grand Ayatollah who, like Muqtada's father, was executed along with a sister, by Saddam’s regime. Seyyed Jaafar is also related to the family of Imam Musa al Sadr, the flamboyant leader of Lebanon Shia who "disappeared" in Libya at the end of the 1970s.

Muqtada, referred to as "the Mongolian" among many educated Iraqi Shiites, was also known to have had a direct hand in the assassination of Seyyed Majeed al Khouii, in Najaf, immediately after the fall of Saddam. Add to this that Muqtada had appointed himself as a spokesman for "the talking (political) Hawza" against "the silent (apolitical) hawza" represented by one of Iraq's most respected religious figures, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Many among Iraq's liberal, or even conservative, Shiite elites feared that Muqtada's ambitions and his uncontrollable Mehdi Army could sound the death knell to the idea of an Iraqi central state.

It was during the Najaf Battle between Coalition forces and Muqtada's Mehdi Army in 2007 that a number of Iraq Shiite personalities tried to convince Seyyed Jaafar, son of Grand Ayatollah Mohamed Baqir al Sadr, a founder of PM Maliki's Daawa party, who was executed with his sister "Nour el Huda" by Saddam's regime in 1980, to take a stand openly against Muqtada as the heir to the Sadri, then current among Iraq's Shiite masses, and as he was a student (since 1993) at Qom's religious school.

At the time, Seyyed Jaafar expressed his disgust at his cousin Muqtada's practices and erratic behaviour but declined the invitation to stand up to him openly. He did, however, send a harsh message to Muqtada. Upon which Muqtada divorced his wife, the sister of Seyyed Jaafar, and expelled her to Qom, along with her two sisters who were married to Muqtada's two (late) brothers.

At that time, Iran's regime viewed Muqtada as an ally and treated Seyyed Jaafar as an insignificant student at the Hawza of Qom.

Muqtada's brutal reaction and the atrocities which Muqtada's militias continued to perpetrate in Iraq, helped Seyyed Jaafar to decide to take off his turban as a religious dignitary, to abandon religious studies, and to get out of Iran.

At the end of 2007, Seyyed Jaafar went to Beirut, where he enrolled at the LebaneseUniversity as a philosophy student. During his stay in Beirut, he avoided talking to the press, but kept close contacts with Lebanese Shiite dignitaries who had studied at the hand of his late father.

While in Beirut, Iraq's firmer prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, a leader of the Daawa party founded by Seyyed Jaafar's father, decided, at the instigation of Muqtada, to deprive Seyyed Jaafar of financial compensation owed to "families of martyrs" (people executed by Saddam). Jaafari showed total indifference to Seyyed Jaafar's plight: he now had to provide for his three sisters who had been expelled by his cousin Muqtada. This incident was reported to Iraq's Kurdish president Jalal Talabani, who decided to include Seyyed Jaafar's compensation in his presidential budget.

After declining official invitations to neighboring Arab countries and refusing to take part in public political activities, Seyyed Jaafar's decision to be a candidate for Iraq's incoming parliament came as a surprise to his friends, all the more for having declared his candidacy as a member of PM Maliki's list.

While the entourage of Seyyed Jaafar is composed of founders of Maliki's Daawa party, it has been very critical towards PM Maliki and the policies adopted by Daawa [Muslim outreach] in the last few years.

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