Monday, February 27, 2006

Politics of Crisis

Here's a taste of how al-Sadr is looking to unite the Iraqi people and calm sectarian tensions after the bloodshed of recent days (translated by Juan Cole and worth reading in full):
Do not forget the plotting of the Occupation, for if we forget its plots, it will kill us all without exception. Sometimes they curse the Messenger of God [Muhammad] and defame him [with their cartoons], and sometimes they blow up our Imams. This series of attacks is not the first and it will not be the last. The attacks will continue. Beware, and be responsible. Religion is your responsibility, mosques are your responsibility, the Muslim people is your responsibility, so do not attack the secure houses of God. Love one another and be brethren of one another so that our Iraq will be secure and stable and independent. We want the expulsion of the Occupier and not the American ambassador.
Great stuff. We may yet unite Iraqi Sunnis and Shi'ites.

Unfortunately, our troops might be the enemy they unite against. Al-Sadr, in the style of Bush's mythical Saddam/Osama/Sep 11th connection, has decided that he's going to insinuate that the US attacked the shrine. When an enemy uses fictional allegations to further his own political agenda, can you still say that's wrong if you've done it yourself? I'm not sure.

By the way, he's not defending the US ambassador if you're wondering. Some Iraqis are calling for Khalilzad to leave. Al-Sadr wants all "occupiers" to leave with him.

Some other stuff about the clerics.

New York Times (via): Younger Clerics Showing Power in Iraq's Unrest
American officials have been repeatedly stunned and frequently thwarted in the past three years by the extraordinary power of Muslim clerics over Iraqi society. But in the sectarian violence of the past few days, that power has taken an ominous turn, as rival hard-line Shiite clerical factions have pushed each other toward more militant and anti-American stances, Iraqi and Western officials say.
Houston Cronicle: Crisis puts al-Sadr at Forefront
The message was clear: al-Sadr controls the streets in much of the country, and no agreement to restore order has a chance of success unless he signs off on it. No major Shiite figure, including the country's top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani himself, would at this point challenge al-Sadr openly.
Reuters: Iraqi Sunni, Shi'ite groups meet on violence
Sharaa [al-Sadr spokescleric] blamed the U.S. occupation for acts designed to spread sectarian tensions and called for American troops to leave Iraq or set a timetable for withdrawal.
The Detroit News: Clerics wield the real power
Rarely since the U.S.-led invasion have Iraq's politicians appeared so insignificant and its religious clergy loomed so large as in the aftermath of the bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra.

Few Iraqis paid attention to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and other leaders of political parties who called for calm. But many winced or smiled as the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the paramount Shiite leader here, issued an unusually bellicose statement suggesting it was time for "the faithful" to protect religious sites -- an apparent endorsement of militias.

Others listened to every word uttered and watched every gesture made by Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric, as he rushed from Lebanon back to Iraq after the explosion.

The political dominance of clerics on both sides of the Shiite-Sunni divide marks a dramatic reversal of 85 years of secular rule in Iraq.
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