Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Truest statement of the week

The oligarchs are so obscenely rich, they bend all social and political institutions to their will. “Democracy” cannot possibly exist alongside oligarchy. It is, therefore, necessary that politicians like Biden pretend that the oligarchs are just regular folks, like the rest of us. “You know what I’ve found is rich people are just as patriotic as poor people. Not a joke. I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money,” Biden assured a group of 100 rich people in Manhattan.  

Black voters may have put Biden in the Oval Office, but the former “Senator from Mastercard” has always taken his orders from the oligarchy. The oligarch-in-charge at the Democratic National Committee is Michael Bloomberg, who has fronted much of the DNC’s bills  this year. The coronavirus has been very good to Bloomberg: he added $10.5 billion  to his mega-fortune – a 22 percent increase -- in just the two months between March 18 and May 15. Such sums can buy every important politician in the Democratic half of the corporate duopoly.

For the Lords of Capital, control of the Democrats is critical, since they are the party that claims to represent the people hardest hit by capitalist crises. (The Republican “base,” although full of people in economic straits, demands only that white supremacy be championed.) It is the Democratic Party’s job to beat back popular demands for social and economic justice, because the peoples and classes that make these demands are Democrats. As the crises become deeper and more frequent under late-stage capitalism, the oligarchy’s hold on the Democratic Party tightens, accordingly. 

-- Glen Ford, "Biden, the Emcee at the Billionaires’ Ball" (BLACK AGENDA REPORT).

Truest statement of the week II

While keeping Facebook’s history in mind, we must also see through the machinations of a new group of thought police who have made clear that they expect social media to bow to their dictates. That is exactly what Twitter did in censoring a recent news story that was unflattering to Hunter Biden. After protecting the Democratic candidate’s son, Twitter’s CEO showed contrition after the fact and claimed the decision was a mistake. 

It isn’t just corporate media who are a danger here. There are individuals on the Biden transition team who have publicly stated their support for official propaganda. Richard Stengel  is the team leader for the United States Global Agency, which includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle Eastern Broadcasting Networks. In 2018 Stengel had this to say about official propaganda, “My old job at the State Department was what people used to joke as the chief propagandist. I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it, and they have to do it to their own population. And I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.” It should be noted that Stengel worked for the State Department during the Barack Obama administration and not that of fascist Trump.

It is clear that Biden will be the more effective evil in this regard. There will be no buffoons like Trump or Bannon spewing obvious hatred and nonsense who can be easily dismissed. Instead we will have well spoken operatives like Stengel, who think that propaganda isn’t so bad.

The people need their own platforms, like Black Agenda Report, that will dissect the lies and obfuscations of an administration greeted with a sigh of relief by millions of people weary of Trump and his policies. Already fossil fuel companies and Congress members who benefit from their largesse are on the transition team as are chemical industry representatives slated to go to the EPA. All will end up in the White House along with self-confessed propagandists. We must be ready to engage them all. 

-- Margaret Kimberley, "Freedom Rider: Censorship in the Biden Era" (BLACK AGENDA REPORT). 

A note to our readers

 Hey -- 


Tuesday night. 

Let's thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,

Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen, 
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with? 


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Hey, Rapist Joe, maybe don't hire someone who oversaw a toxic work environment

 War Hawk Joe Biden has yet to be sworn in but he just keeps getting worse.


Wheels down in Baghdad. Here, the walks to his helo with Ambassador Jones and Lieutenant General MacFarland.

The self proclaimed 'champion of women' is proving how problematic he is by declaring Neera Tandem his nominee to head OMB.  That would be the same Neera who oversaw a toxic workplace in 2018 -- where harassment of women ran wild and Neera looked the other.  Or she looked the other way up until BUZZFEED reported on what was taking place.  Suddenly, Neera sprang into action.

To address the work place harassment?  No.  She sprung into action to out one of the survivors of the assault.

Grasp that.  She didn't try to stop the harassment but she was right on it when it came time to expose a woman who had been harassed.

You don't have that record and get to be the head of anything.

Joe Biden's nominating Neera Tandem goes to his own problematic history with women.  Only a pig would look at Neera and say, "That's someone I want on my team!"

With every action he takes, Joe Biden just makes us believe Tara Reade all the more.

If the information is news to you, refer to "Iraq snapshot" which addresses it all and then some.

TV: The end of the road?

 Endings?  We think about them more and more these days.

Hidden meanings and love's strange ways 

Keep me looking for more and more, 

But all I find is that behind 

Each new door is another door.

-- "Another Door," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her self-titled debut album.

The year 2020 is slowly winding down and the world collectively screams, "Good riddance."  But other things are ending as well.  

WARRIOR.  December 4th, the series airs its final new episode.  Shannon Lee and Justin Lee produce the show that's based on a planned project by Shannon's late father Bruce Lee.  Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) arrives in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century searching for his sister  Xiaojing (Dianne Doan) who now goes by Mai Ling and is married to mafia boss Long Zii (Henry Yuk). Olivia Cheng also stands out as the madame Ah Tov.  

It's a strong series with a unique look and one flaw.  The darkness utilized over and over often worked.  But sometimes?  It just kept you from seeing what you needed.  In fact, it reminded us of Steven Bauer in the video for The Pointer Sisters' "Dare Me."  He's a shirtless boxer but, every time the camera finally makes it over to him, it's as though there's some soapy film over the camera.  

While the story was tight and involving, the camera work often undermined scenes -- the camera work and the lighting.  But the show was two solid seasons of entertainment that was largely well executed.

So why is it coming to an end?

Because it was created by CINEMAX and it is their last original production.  

What will they offer now?  Movies.  Movies you can get on every other premium channel.  

Which is why we wonder if, in fact, CINEMAX is also coming to an end?

Both it and HBO are owned by the same corporate overlord/behemoth.  And, unlike CINEMAX now, HBO is still making original content -- films, series, specials.  HBO is also promoting HBO MAX.  It's their streaming service.  You might not know it, but CINEMAX had a streaming service, CINEMAX GO -- also known as MAX GO, which launched in 2010.  It ended last April because the corporate parents thought some might confuse it with HBO MAX. 

HBO MAX will release WONDER WOMAN 1984 on Christmas Day.  It will also be released in any theaters that might still be open around that time.  The pandemic has destroyed the film exhibition industry.  Debuting a film with a $200,000,000 budget on a streamer would seem insane at any other time.  But few theaters are open and few people are going to the ones that are.  It's thought that such a high profile film can draw attention to HBO MAX and have people see it as an alternative to NETFLIX and not just another HBO division.  

Drawing attention can be a good thing.  Or a bad one.  

SUPER INTELLIGENCE is Melissa McCarthy's new film that debuted on HBO MAX last week on Thanksgiving Day.  

The reviews for the film have been brutal.  We were expecting something unwatchable.  It's actually a funny film and we're wondering how much sexism factored into the reviews?  We're not talking GHOSTBUTERS ARE WOMEN NOW sexism.  We're talking the sexism no one ever wants to acknowledge -- the sexism we've been combatting here forever.  

In the 80s and early 90s, it was the sexism aimed at Goldie Hawn.  In the '00s, it was the sexism aimed at Meg Ryan.  In the 60s, it was aimed at Doris Day.  Movie stars play types.  That's how it always has been -- and one reason that neither Laurence Olivier nor Meryl Streep ever made it as a movie star.  Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Mae West, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Richard Pryor, etc.  They played a type.

And it's a sexist world where you get women called out for that after ten or fifteen years but never the men.  Critics made it their point to attack Doris Day for playing a type (a type that they usually didn't even get right) but they looked the other way on John Wayne.  They led an attack on Doris that never let up.  Then they started in on Goldie in the 80s.  Silent in the seventies?  Women were hardly working in films in the 70s.  It was big news, in the fall of 1977, when films starring two women -- JULIA with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave and THE TURNING POINT with Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft -- were released within weeks of each other.  While Goldie was being called out for playing characters that some saw as similar, Clint Eastwood was treated as a god despite also playing a type over and over.  There is a scorn that's heaped on a Meg Ryan, for example, that never is aimed at Tom Hanks.

So we think part of the problem some reviewers have with the film is that Melissa is playing a type.  It's not the same character -- nor were Judy Benjamin, Sunny Davis and Molly McGrath the same character.  But it is a type and, again, that's what movie stars do.  They sell tickets -- or did before the pandemic -- and do so by playing a type that the audience responds to.  

Melissa plays a floundering Carol Peters who has a habit of hitting the road when things get difficult -- work, a relationship, what have you.  A newly aware artificial intelligence contacts her and Carol has to guide it to try to prevent the end of the world.  

It has many brilliant moments -- including the job interview -- and certainly delivers on the laughs.  It may work even better, as a film where the fate of the world is at stake, during a pandemic.  

Regardless, it's a funny movie and will entertain you.  Now would be a good time for those people who supposedly care about sexism to say enough to the attacks on Melissa.  

Now would be a good time to stream the film.  But maybe not on your TV.

HBO MAX is still not available everywhere.  PEACOCK may have made peace, for example, with ROKU but HBO MAX has not.  Between ROKU TVs and ROKU sticks, that's a lot of streamers being left out of the potential viewing pool.  And though they may have been satisfied watching SUPERINTELLIGENCE on their phones or pads, are they going to be okay with doing the same when it comes to a film like WONDER WOMAN 1984 filled with fight scenes and 'big cinema'?

The year is winding down and a lot of questions remain.  One big one remains why one corporation would offer HBO and CINEMAX both when they offer the same content.  Excuse us, when CINEMAX now has less content than HBO because HBO continues to offer original programming.   Seems like one clear ending down the road is the shuttering of CINEMAX.


Media Roundtable

Jim: This roundtable is focusing on the media.  Last time Ava and C.I. didn't speak in the roundtable.  Were they present, some of you asked?  Yes.  They're the ones who take the notes for this transcript.  They may or may not speak this time.  Remember our e-mail address is thethirdestatesundayreview@yahoo.com.  Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): What's a big beef about the media that's supposed to be serving us?

Betty: As Ava and C.I. have repeatedly noted in the last weeks, the lack of women as guests.  We need our shows, our programs, to be working harder at including women.  We also need to be working harder at including people of color. 

Wally: JACOBIN needs to fire Ana Kasparian.  That I have to make that point goes to how sad 'our media' is.  A) She's already on THE YOUNG TURKS where she's been an embarrassment for years.  B) JACOBIN needs to have its own brand.  It doesn't need to be watered by THE YOUNG TURKS.  It is so stupid to have her on a JACOBIN program.  They should ask Liza Featherstone or Marianela D'Aprile to host.  Co-host?  Branko -- what's his name?

C.I.: Branko Marcelic.

Wally (Con't): Thank you.  He's someone with passion.  So is Walker Bragman.  I'd even be fine with David Sirota being a co-host.  But they need to kick Ana to the curb.  She's alienating to many people.  She's become a joke.  You can't be in any discussion online when her name comes up that they're not mocking her for her claim that you can't buy a house with $100,000.  She's out of touch.  She's a rude jerk who's always picking fights online.  

Mike: Amen.  I won't listen to JACOBIN's weekend program anymore because of her.  And that was bulls**t the crap she pulled on Jimmy Dore.  I don't watch YOUNG TURDS, I never have.  I was never tricked or fooled by Cenk -- just a fat ass Republican who thought he could push his way to the front of the line if he moved over to the left.

Cedric:  Ana is irritating.  We tried, Ann and I, to listen to JACOBIN but Ana's so prissy.  She's just so irritating as a personality.  Ann?

Ann: Agreed.  She thinks she's so important and she's really not.  But she is off putting.  I would add that I'm really disappointed who is and who isn't on 'our media.'  Ava and C.I. noted a few weeks ago why are these programs -- RISING, Katie Halper, etc -- why aren't they inviting Margaret Kimberley or Glen Ford from BLACK AGENDA REPORT?

Cedric: And I need to give Katie credit.  She was nothing but men and may not have realized it but when Ava and C.I. and others started pointing it out, Katie did make an effort to bring on more women.  So give her credit for that.

Rebecca: Agree.

Trina: But back to Ann's point, where is Margaret or Glen?  They're not shy.  Why aren't they being invited on to programs?  It's not as though RISING, for example, has a lot of guests of color.

Betty: Right.  Support.

Marcia: I want to note Ava and C.I.'s "Media: Cancel Culture, Identity Politics, Inclusion" because this is important, representation is important.  I'm African-American.  And I know there aren't a lot of sites online that welcome us.  Many pretend but it's not reality.  Cedric and Betty both have spoken of this over the years.  How you'd go to, for example, DAILY KOS in 2004 and, when people wanted to talk problems with reaching voters, as long as you didn't raise real issues, issues that impact African-Americans, things were fine.  But if you did raise an issue -- even just noting that Jesse Jackson should have been allowed to visit Florida in 2000 during the recounts -- suddenly you were attacked.  Don't dismiss us with "identity politics."  You're not our norm, stop pretending that you are.  I don't know if I'm making sense here.

Jim: I follow you.

Stan: I do too.  And what Ava and C.I. were saying was it would be easier to take some people's scorn of "identity politics" if these people weren't also excluding anyone that wasn't a White male on their programs.  The point being, yes, there is "identity politics" that does separate us sometimes and maybe make us lose focus of some larger issues that we could join on.  However, "identity politics" comes up to begin with because your White male norm does not fit my Black existence and if you could enlarge the scope of what we discuss so that my issues are addressed as well, we could talk about those larger issues.  But you don't do that and that's why people like me are left out of what's supposed to be ''our media."

Betty: Well said. Both of you.  Another issue, for me, is YOUTUBE.  I agree with C.I., I'm done with podcasts per se.  If they're going to be on YOUTUBE, that's different.  But there is a hiss, I hear it too, when you're listening to a podcast.  I'm tired of it.  If the Progressive Radio Network or BLACK AGENDA RADIO would post their program -- BAR -- on YOUTUBE regularly, I'd listen more.  I'm done listening at the BAR site because there is that hiss.  I'm not trying to be mean.

Kat: And I don't think you are.  I'm tired of the hiss too.  I don't need it.  I don't want it.  It's why I don't listen to Cindy Sheehan's podcast.  That hiss is so annoying.  And there was a time when I would listen to many programs.  But now that I can hear what they sound like on YOUTUBE, I'm just not interested in going back to hurting my ears listening to these podcasts with the hiss in it.  It's really obvious if you're listening with head phones and that's what I pretty much listen with.  

Jim: Okay, what are some programs that are speaking to us, what's ''our media'' right now today?

Mike: Jimmy Dore.  THE JIMMY DORE SHOW is a must listen.  He's a sane voice in a very crazy world.

Elaine: Since C.I started highlighting them, I've really enjoyed streaming the CONVO COUCH.  It's a good program that strives to be fair and strives to say something other than Democratic Party talking points.  I really like the two hosts -- Fiorella Isabell and Craig Jardula.

Trina: I agree with Elaine, they are interesting and I like that Craig supported -- or at least was welcoming -- of Gloria La Riva's campaign.  I also enjoy Jimmy Dore.  I'd say those two and I'd put Katie Halper on the list because she has been bringing on more women.  

Ruth: I wish Dennis Bernstein's FLASHPOINTS was on YOUTUBE.  If I listen live, it's fine but if I'm going to the KPFA archives to listen after the fact, I do get that hiss everyone's talking about.  

Ava: I'm going to plug a podcast that C.I. and I keep meaning to mention in our media pieces.  ON THE ISSUES WITH MICHELLE GOODWIN -- it's a podcast MS. MAGAZINE is doing weekly currently.

C.I.: On November 2nd, for example, Michelle Goodwin spoke with former Senator Russ Feingold, actress and comedian Sandra Bernhard and comic, activist and producer Lizz Winstead.  It was a very strong show.  Michelle's a law professor and her points are strong and thought provoking.  She's an important voice and, speaking of women of color, I wonder why she's not invited on RISING and other programs.  

Betty: I'm sick of podcasts that aren't on YOUTUBE but I will make a point to listen to Michelle this week and write about her program at my site.  

Ruth: And that is really all we can do.  We cannot control what other people do.  But one thing this community was built on was that we do not have to accept the world that is being shoved down our throat.  We can use our sites to ensure that the spotlight goes beyond the White Straight Male.  

Ty:  I want to note that as soon as WSWS has left their Trump lunacy, I will go back to listening to their videos.  I'm just not in the mood though to hear all their crazy talk about how Donald Trump's going to refuse to leave the White House and blah blah blah.  There are real issues.  Can we talk about that in this media roundtable?

Dona:  I will, Ty.  I know where you're going.  In Monday's "Iraq snapshot," in Sunday's "Moqtada ordered the assault" and in Saturday's ",Moqtada al-Sadr sicks his cult on innocent protesters -- dozens injured, six dead" C.I. has covered how Moqtada al-Sadr organized an attack on the peaceful protesters carried out by Moqtada's goons.  Where is the media in 'our media' that covers that?  We're not seeing it.  The young people of Iraq have risked their lives to protest now for over a year.  Last weekend saw an attack that's left nearly 20 dead and over 80 injured.  Where's this in 'our media'?  I saw countless pieces on Neera Tanden.  I saw nothing on Iraq.

Isaiah:  I'm glad you brought that up.  It's bad that our corporate media ignores Iraq.  But what's the excuse for our non-corporate media?  One of the reasons I ignore fake-ass MSNBC is because it ignores Iraq.  I'm not going to get behind any of our YOUTUBE programs that can't take the time to note the Iraq War.  I don't have the time and the Iraq War was a defining moment for my generation, for our country.  The Iraq War continues and to pretend that it doesn't is to tell me that your useless and stupid.  That's how I feel.

Jim: I don't fault you for feeling that way, I'm sure no one participating does.

Jess:  One program not mentioned that I know we listen to is Bonnie Faulkner's GUNS AND BUTTER.  I think we forget it because it's not updated every month.  It's probably the only podcast I will endure as a podcast.

Ruth: I am glad you mentioned Bonnie. I should have remembered her program.

Jim: Alright, with that we're going to wind down.  This is a rush transcript.


In case you missed the news out of Iraq . . .

From the November 30th Iraq snapshot:

Friday saw an attack on the peaceful protesters in Nassariya.  This was an attack, it was not a ''clash.''  The protesters had been in al Haboubi Square for some time.  When Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the Baghdad square attacked and the tents torn down a month ago, he attempted something similar in Nassaiya.  It did not fly in the city, it did not fly in the province (Dhi Qar Governorate).  Mustafa had to back down and the protesters continued their peaceful protest.  As Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) observed yesterday, "The coronavirus and violence against demonstrators has seen the moement slow elsewhere but it endures in Nasiriyah."

Friday, they were attacked.  The death toll has now risen to 16.  With over 80 more left injured that number could continue to increase.  

Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered the attack.  Dilan S. Hussein (RUDAW) reports that Moqtada told his cult to "clean up the 'atheism' that he said had taken over the city's streets" before sending them out on Friday.  They arrived at the square with loaded guns, in four-wheel vehicles and with props.  

 Basra journalist Mohammed Qasim Tweets:

#Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia mixed alcohol with the #Rainbow flag, meaning that homosexuals and #alcohol are corruption and must be eliminated, and this is a public violation of #human rights.

Moqtada gave the orders and then sicked his rabid cult on the protesters.  

This was a planned assault.  Not only does the Iraqi government need to disarm his goons, they need to put them on trial.  Equally true, it was not necessary for the cult to enter the town square (al Haboubi square) -- where the peaceful protesters were -- and have been for over a year -- in order to get to any destination. They chose to enter that square, they did so with props and they did so with guns.  And they chose to enter the square in "four wheel drive vehicles."  This was not a 'clash,' it was a planned assault.

A day after the attacks, his goons staged a show of support this weekend . . . in Baghdad.  They live in Baghdad.  In a slum known as Sadr City.  He's their grand hero but they live in a slum.  Maybe that should have the cult's first clue that Moqtada isn't so heroic and isn't leading them to a better life?  In Nassariyah, the turnout came from those who oppose Moqtada.

Flag of Iraq
| Manifestation contre Moqtada al-Sadr. A #Nassiriyah, les manifestants sont sortis par milliers. Ils ont repris la profession de foi et ont scandé « Nul divinité en dehors d’Allah, Moqtada l’ennemi d’Allah ». لا إله إلا الله مقتدى عدو الله

On Friday, after they killed and injured, Moqtada praised them on his Twitter feed.  RUDAW: "He then took to Twitter on Friday to thank his supporters for mobilizing." Then Tweets like this popped up.

The United Kingdom's Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey Tweeted:

I condemn the violence against protesters in Nasiriya and other cities. There can be no justification for such senseless killing. I call on the Iraqi authorities to protect peaceful protesters from attacks, and to bring to justice those responsible.

The US Embassy in Iraq Tweeted:

The United States condemns the violence against peaceful protestors that took place in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar today. These unjustifiable acts of violence have no place in a democracy. 1/2

The United States joins the international community in calling for those responsible to be held accountable, and for the government to provide protection for protestors and others engaged in the legitimate exercise of free speech. (2/2)


THE BAGDAD POST points out that the United Nations also called out the assault. Sensing the heat, Moqtada has attempted to back pedal.  John Davison of REUTERS Tweets:

Muqtada al-Sadr tells protesters to go home and for the government to do what’s necessary to keep security and deal with them, after his supporters began clashes that have killed at least 7 demonstrators in Nassiriya #iraq
Quote Tweet
مقتدى السيد محمد الصدر

And he's said to have fled the country, departing the airport in Najaf for Beirut.  That is his long-standing pattern -- flee the country whenever he thinks he might be arrested. 

TELESUR reports that Moqtada's cult used more than guns -- they also attacked the protesters with knives, batons and stones.  And the attack wasn't just in Nassirya.  SHAFAQ NEWS reports they attacked the Kut square in Wasit Province -- where they teamed with Mustafa's security forces for the attack -- and that protestor Hussein Kata'a set himself on fire in protest.

Aqaleem Anbar Tweets:

protester Hussein Kataa set fire to himself in protest against the incursion of the repressive forces into wasit's sit-in square for the purpose of ending the sit-in. Preliminary reports indicate his death

Hussein is pictured in the Tweet below:

Red circle
المُتظاهر حسين كاطع يُضرم النار بنفسه إحتجاجاً على إقتحام القوات القَمعية لساحة إعتصام واسط لغرض إنهاء الإعتصام . والأنباء الأولية تُشير إلى وفاته

KURDISTAN 24 offers this context:


It's not the first time Sadr's armed supporters, often called “Blue caps” by government protestors, have used violence at the demonstrations.

In February, a brutal crackdown they carried out against protesters in the southern city of Najaf resulted in the deaths of at least eight and as many as 100 wounded.

Kirk H. Sowell, the principal of Middle East-focused political risk firm Utica Risk Services, told Kurdistan 24 that Sadr’s more hostile position towards protestors goes back to January and February, not long after a meeting of representatives of Tehran-backed militias was held in Iran. 

The groups met to unite on the decision to expel American forces from Iraq. This came after the Iraqi parliament held an extraordinary session on Jan. 5 to vote on a non-binding resolution for the Iraqi government to expel foreign military troops in Iraq.

“There was a meeting in Qom; Sadr, Amiri, other Iran-aligned groups, and they stopped fighting one another. Right after that, the “Blue Cap” phenomenon arose; these were like enforcers, and Sadr abolished them in February after I presume he realized they were drawing too much attention to his thuggery,” he said. 

However, the tensions continued and pro-Sadr groups continued to attack anti-government protestors.

Sowell said, “My view is that Sadr decided that the strength of the fall 2019 protests was such that he couldn't co-opt or manipulate them, so he had to crush them.”

“From 2015-2018, you may remember Sadr was working with protesters, or at least some protest groups, most notably the ICP (Iraqi Communist Party). But the Sadrists and the ICP split in 2019. They all saw the writing on the wall.”

Sadr has been an unpredictable character, and as demonstrations continued, he switched his position in his support for the movement back and forth multiple times, with some protesters considering him a cynical politician who attempted to steer the crowds to his benefit.

ARAB WEEKLY notes this morning:

Demonstrations that Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr hoped would serve as a “popular referendum” backing his movement’s ambitions to form a government after the next elections have dealt a big blow to him and his movement.

The protests have brought bad publicity to him and estranged him from a large swathe of the Shia street in Iraq.

To make matters worse, signs of a rift within the Sadrist movement have emerged, with the announcement by one of its factions that the movement no longer represents them and does not meet their aspirations for reform after its suspected involvement in the shedding the blood of demonstrators who are not affiliated with it in the city of Nasiriyah, the centre of Dhi Qar governorate in southern Iraq.

ARAB WEEKLY notes the political backlash that Moqtada is now experiencing with many politicians calling him out -- including Iraq's previous prime minister Hayder al-Abadi.

Joel Wing (MUSINGS ON IRAQ) points out:

Sadr tried to co-opt the protests that started in October last year. In January 2020 however he withdrew his support and then in February Sadrists assaulted activists in Babil and Najaf leading to 12 deaths. It was apparent from the start that Sadr was only using the demonstrations to further his own political goals. By joining with the protests he was maintaining his image as an outsider from the political elite and standing with the youth. When he had no more use for them however he turned on them and used violence to let them know how vulnerable they were. This has been Sadr’s M.O. since 2003. He continues on with his father’s populist nationalist message while his armed adherents have fought and eliminated his opponents. Thus he talks about being a reformer while killing people in the streets. 

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