Since the spring of 2007 Ammar has been effectively running SIIC, and he stepped down from his previous position as Secretary General of the Al-Hakim Foundation (Al-Mehrab Martyr Foundation) and appointed Hussain al-Hakim, and then Hassan al-Hakim, both cousins, to run the multi-million dollar welfare institution in his stead.
Although Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is a workaholic and insists on 7am meetings to make most of the day, he is considered, even by some of his friends and family, as being old-fashioned and boring. Ammar on the other hand is a prolific public speaker and more flamboyant. His swagger, pompous bodyguards and flashy convoys, which include a bullet-proof BMW X5, has earned him the nickname “Uday" al-Hakim, a phrase I seem to be hearing more often when I am in Iraq. This summer I inadvertently insulted a taxi driver by laughing after he told me with absolute conviction “Ammar has used cash to buy half the land in Najaf”.
In the emergency meeting that was held in Baghdad to discuss the future of SIIC, Abdul Mehdi proposed the idea of a committee, which he will head, that will help Ammar lead the party. When the senior officials present were asked for their opinions the awkward moment of silence that followed was deafening. No one opposed the idea of Ammar leading but it was obvious not all of the nervous-looking officials seemed too keen either.
Abdul Mehdi, although intellectually superior to Ammar and decades his senior, has one major disadvantage; his surname is not Hakim. Abdul Mehdi threw his weight behind Ammar for insurance purposes; to guarantee seeing off any challenge from other senior SIIC officials.
Things will be further complicated if, or when, Abdul Mehdi becomes the new Prime Minister next year. Officially, even though premier of Iraq, he will be outranked in his own party by the 38-year-old Ammar. Abdul Mehdi was just one vote away from becoming Prime Minister back in December 2005, however all the Sadrist MP's voted for Ibrahim al-Ja'fari who won 64-63 and then immediately froze my fathers murder case, in which Sadr is chief suspect. It seems likely Abdul Mehdi will take over from Maliki, unless Da'wa fight hard for the premiership.
The way things run inside the Supreme Council is similar to how democracy works in Iran. “We have committees and sub-committees, we have elections and decisions are made by all”, a veteran SIIC official told me earlier this year “But if Hakim says ‘Yes’, no one will dare to say no”. A paradox even he found funny.
With Adel Abdul Mehdi leading Iraq, and assuming he remains loyal, the rising star Ammar al-Hakim will certainly become even more influential and powerful. It remains to be seen what exactly this will mean for Baghdad, some expect him to be invaluable when it comes to dealing with Iran, where he lived and studied, but it is that very reason that seems to be worrying others.