Monday, August 06, 2007

Perspective: Iraq's next power player?

With his rimless glasses and black-leather loafers, 36-year-old Amar Hakim evinces a certain clerical chic. The young cleric is soft-spoken and articulate, a marked contrast to his rabble-rousing contemporary, Moqtada al-Sadr. On a 2005 visit to Washington, he charmed U.S. congressmen and columnists alike with his admiration for how Lincoln had saved his republic from civil war. "I don't want to say he's necessarily a young Lincoln or Jefferson," says a U.S. official in Baghdad who wasn't authorized to speak on the record. "[But] people seem to feel he's wise"...

But in Iraq, Amar Hakim has a darker reputation. When he ran his family's multimillion-dollar foundation, he had a habit of rolling through Baghdad in a convoy of flashy SUVs, surrounded by a scrum of bodyguards and hangers-on. Like his father, Abdelaziz al-Hakim, who is currently receiving chemotherapy for lung cancer in Tehran, he has close ties to Iran. (Amar was arrested by U.S. forces earlier this year coming across the border from Iran to Iraq, although then-U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad quickly apologized.) He has pushed hard for greater regional autonomy, in order to create an oil-rich, Shiite-dominated superstate in the south. Critics, many of them Sunni, have nicknamed him "Uday Hakim," after Saddam's corrupt and sociopathic son.

Read the rest at Newsweek