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Policy Analysis

Research Notes 12

The Muslim Scholars Association: A Key Actor in Iraq

Daniel Fink and Steven Leibowitz

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Pages: 12

Distributor: WINEP

December 2006

On November 16, the Iraqi government issued an arrest warrant for Harith al-Dhari, secretary-general of the Muslim Scholars Association, the country's most influential Sunni Arab religious organization. He was charged with inciting terrorism and violence due to his presumed ties to the Sunni insurgency. The move was strongly criticized by the Sunni political community and sparked protests across Iraq.


To discuss this development, The Washington Institute is pleased to present a new entry in its Research Note series. The paper offers a comprehensive assessment of the Muslim Scholars Association, including its origins, evolution, disposition, and standing in the Sunni political, religious, and insurgent landscape. The authors also examine the varying attitudes toward the association expressed by Iraqi political actors, by neighboring Sunni states, and, in Washington, by the recently released Iraq Study Group report. As the latest incident unfolds, they argue, the association may take one of two stances toward the Iraqi government: escalated opposition or expanded cooperation. Its course of action will be an important indicator of how Iraq's general political situation will develop over the next few months.