The Beginning Of The End?
What will happen if Shi'ites across Iraq rise up against the US-led occupying forces, in response to the fervent anti-US statements from a
radical young Shiite cleric named Moktada al-Sadr?
Sadr represents a potent blend of religion, political power and tribal violence. Bremer and the CPA have been keeping him at arms length, alternately mollifying him and alienating his power-base. Last week they closed down a newspaper which was considered a mouth-piece for his views, on the basis that it was inciting voilence. With the long-heralded election process showing no sign of embracing him, al-Sadr declared himself the Iraq "arm-bearer" of Hamas, barricaded himself inside a mosque and called for the violent overthrow of US forces.
'There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples,' al-Sadr said in a statement. 'I ask you not to resort to demonstrations because they have become a losing card and we should seek other ways,' he said. 'Terrorize your enemy, as we cannot remain silent over its violations.'
His followers responded with violent demonstrations over the weekend that included throwing themselves under tanks.
"The occupation is over!" many yelled. "We are now controlled by Sadr!"
Where will this end? These are not people who will be easily placated by a US administration that - after 12 months in the country - still shows no signs of engaging popular support.