Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi: al-Sadr's mouthpiece who tweets “what the leader cannot say"

Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi: al-Sadr's mouthpiece who tweets “what the leader cannot say"

Shafaq News / Falah al-Sadri, as he prefers to be known, was scrolling through his phone, contemplating a new tweet by Hajj Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi, known as the "leader's minister", when he noticed that each tweet contains "instructions" guiding the Sadrists before, during, and after the "Ashura uprising", against the media campaign of their current opponent, the Coordination Framework.

"The leader's minister guides us"

"Hajj Saleh is like the compass that steers us, after the leader Muqtada al-Sadr, against the ruling political class. He writes what the leader says, and all we Sadrists have to do is obey and heed the call," said Falah, a resident of Sadr City, east of Baghdad.

He added, "I do not know Hajj Saleh al-Iraqi in person, but I am aware that he is the major guide for the Ashura uprising after Muqtada al-Sadr. He aborted the Coordination Framework's media campaign against our movement, since each of his tweets can shift the situation and give the Sadrist masses a fresh impetus."

The "minister" tweets what the "leader" does not say

Those who follow Iraqi affairs know that Sadrists are obedient to their leader. That was proved the day they stormed the parliament. They accepted their leader's directions and what was also tweeted by Mohammed Saleh al-Iraqi, via which orders were sent to push or withdraw, i.e., per what is issued by the said tweets, the Sadrists move.

According to Sadrists, this account says what al-Sadr should not say, including vocabulary that conveys al-Sadr but in the words of his minister. The "ominous framework trinity," for example, is a term coined by the "minister of the leader" and repeated by Sadrist platforms to refer to his opponents of "the state of law led by Nouri al-Maliki, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq led by Qais al-Khazali, and the National Wisdom Movement led by Ammar al-Hakim."

In addition to mentioning the Argentine legend Maradona in "projecting" his experience on the Iraqi reality, which the Sadrists consider "a new reality drawn by the "minister" with these tweets reach followers quickly, break the constraints of diplomacy, and make it the event and what comes after it reactions, all at the same time.

Following the events of August 29-30, as well as Muqtada al-Sadr's declaration of retirement from politics, and his subsequent return to "extinguish the flames of confrontations" inside the Green Zone with a press conference held in al-Hannana in Najaf, the minister's account was closed. Then, however, it resurfaced to explain the terms contained in al-Sadr's speech, and even escalated the situation by proposing to remove the head of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces-P.M.F.), Falih al-Fayyad, for reasons given by the "minister" at the time.

A virtual or realistic Saleh?

Except for Muqtada al-Sadr, no one appears to know Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi personally. Furthermore, despite Sadrist secrecy surrounding it, and some's belief that it is a Sadrist "virtual" gate used to give al-Sadr's instructions in another method, others believe that this figure exists and has al-Sadr's full trust.

Due to the difficulty of obtaining an official answer despite Shafaq News agency's attempts with al-Sadr's offices, yet this character, as it seems according to the Sadrist vision, "must remain secret".

To try to get a glimpse of this character, Shafaq News agency reviewed several videos about Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi, most notably an interview with Muqtada al-Sadr, published on YouTube on 24/2/2020, in which the presenter requested a direct meeting with Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi. However, al-Sadr refused, and advised him to avoid it, without explaining the reasons.

Additionally, at a meeting with former Sadrist leader Bahaa' al-Araji, he sparked further controversy by claiming that "Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi is not a figure but four people, two of whom live in Najaf and the other two in Baghdad, and they publish only with Muqtada al-Sadr's direct knowledge."

While tweets and posts circulated on social media sites claiming that Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi is close to al-Sadr and the head of the former Sadrist bloc Hassan al-Adhari, Shafaq News Agency could not confirm their accuracy, including a Twitter account called al-Mulla, who is close to former MP Faiq Sheikh Ali, who confirmed this statement in a tweet shared on 14/11/2021.

Platforms and individuals affiliated with the Coordination Framework claim that "a religious figure close to al-Sadr manages this account and is known as Tawfiq al-Ghanimi," while others say that Ali Mu'amal al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr's nephew, is Saleh Muhammad al-Iraqi.

These "assumptions" appear to be permanent unless the Sadrists reveal the minister's identity."

The Framework's media weapon against the "minister"

Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi's tweets may have accomplished two crucial goals: "maintaining the Sadrist momentum in the protest squares before the events on 29-30 August 2022, with continuous tweets that began on the first day of their Ashura Uprising. This page reached al-Sadr's audience, known to belong to the poor working class in Iraqi society, through terms resonating with the public and linked to all daily events, particularly what Sadrists call the "revolution", and it also played a role in the post-Green Zone period.

The second goal is a "kind of excellence" recorded for this account in the face of the satellite and radio media of its opponents in the Coordination Framework, which includes a group of Shiite political forces.

The minister "should be stopped"

This Sadrist "success" in the current media battle was more than just "tweets and instructions". The Framework's attempt to respond to the Sadrists went beyond politics and included the minister's page as part of an endeavor that addressed it within the balancing act of creating the next government.

On August 26, 2022, a reliable political source revealed the details of a new initiative presented by the Coordination Framework to address the conflict between the Framework and the Sadrists, including the former's willingness to waive Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's candidacy for prime minister, engage in dialogue with the Sadrist movement, and agree on the nomination of a consensus figure. In exchange, the Sadrist movement must agree to numerous requirements, including their resignation from parliament, forming a cabinet as soon as feasible, and holding an early election one year after the formation of the new government.

According to the source, "one of the most important conditions is to close Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi's account or to refrain from using it in political conflicts, moving the Street, threatening civil peace, or threatening the government, parliament, or judiciary, during the period following the formation of the government."

Minister vs. minister

Following the clear Sadrist "recognition" of Saleh Muhammad al-Iraqi's account, another page appeared as though in response to the "Sadrist leader's minister," namely, the "Minister of the Framework" account, but the difference is in recognition.

Ali al-Fatlawi, a Framework leader, stated, "the so-called Framework minister account does not represent any of the forces and leaders of the Coordination Framework, and does not express the view of these parties," adding, "we do not know to whom it belongs or from where it is managed."

Feeding the "Media, Framework, and Sadrists" trilogy

Despite the Framework's clear objection to the "leader's minister" account, which they consider "virtual," as well as their constant demand to the judiciary to close or issue an arrest warrant against "Saleh Mohammed al-Iraqi" for threatening civil peace, this did not prevent the Framework from dealing with and responding to what it issues as a political position.

On August 27, the Fatah Alliance, led by Hadi al-Amiri, one of the Coordination Framework's most important poles, responded to the leader's minister tweet, in which he called for the exclusion of all traditional forces from participating in the upcoming election.

Mukhtar al-Moussawi, a Fatah alliance member, told Shafaq News Agency that if that class is prohibited, there will be no political forces to participate in the early elections advocated by some. As a result, the current political forces will participate in the election, but only after establishing crucial criteria for selecting suitable persons. Inter-party political elections are also possible, i.e., the nomination of important leaders with successful experiences, in addition to the availability of leadership controls and integrity to choose the most suitable to lead the stage, because any early elections will be no different, "Party loyalty will inevitably be in control. Financial corruption will remain the same, and loyalty can be bought".

Although the reaction symbolizes the Framework's perspective, it also embodies the nature of the impact of al-Iraqi's tweets on the Framework's forces and their interaction with it.

This account also provides content for various TV shows, interviews, and dialogues that use these tweets as part of their political programs. This account is "trustworthy" to the Sadrists and serves as their first instructor.

While Sadrist channels, most notably "Ashura Revolution" and "One Baghdad," were launched on Telegram before, during, and after the Sadrist sit-ins in parliament, they affirmed their commitment to what al-Sadr and his "minister" issued exclusively in the days of the protests and their aftermath, reflecting a clear adherence to the instructions issued by al-Iraqi.

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