Saturday | July 19, 2003
Politics, Iraqi style
By Steve Gilliard
It seems that one of the three most popular Shia leaders, Muqtada al-Sadr, is planning to oppose our new council in Iraq.
His speech on Friday was clearly designed to discredit religious figures who have joined the council, and force the mainstream Shia clergy to distance themselves from the coalition.
"I will not extend my hand to them [the coalition] even if it costs me my life," said Mr Sadr, who called on worshippers to boycott the council and asked ranking Shia clerics not to recognise it.
"The parties represented on the council do not represent the Iraqi people, they do not express our views," he said, adding that he was asked to join the council by US administrators in Baghdad. "If I joined the council, that would anger the people, and anger God," he said.
Worshippers attended the sermon from throughout Iraq, but mainly from Shia suburbs in Baghdad, where Mr Sadr is most popular. Locals estimated the crowd, which flowed out of the mosque and into surrounding streets, at 100,000.............."The council is weak now, it is new, and we must strangle it now in order to weaken it further," he said.
Sadr is playing his hand cleverly. While Al-Hakim sent his brother to serve on the council, Sadr washes his hands of it and declares open opposition.
Al-Sadr,......., said the government is comprised of "nonbelievers" who don't represent the people.
"We will not cooperate with the council," he told the crowd. "We will form our own council. Iraq will then have two councils: one of the wrongdoers and one of the righteous." "Zionists!" the crowd chanted. "Zionist council!"
In an interview later with The Associated Press, al-Sadr said he would launch a parallel government and draft a constitution in consultation with all the country's Islamic movements.
"Eventually, we'll have a referendum separate from the Americans and, God willing, elections separate from the Americans,"
Now, he may be a young hothead, but by setting up a parallel government to the occupation, he's clearly throwing down a challenge to senior Shia clerics: choose us or the Americans. The Sunnis may well decide to join in with him rather than continue to deal with the clueless Americans.
Iraqis may well believe in democracy, they may just think Viceroy Jerry and his 'council' have nothing to with it.Posted July 19, 2003 12:03 PM