Saturday, March 31, 2007

Iraq War: "Mookie" calls for April 9 protest

Crusaders from the old days

Following up on yesterday's post, I see that "Mookie", Muqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army or JAM, is calling for public (and presumably non-violent) protests on April 9:
Sadr lambasts US for Iraq woes The Peninsula Online (Qatar)AP 03/31/07. AP reports:

Radical cleric Muqtada Al Sadr issued a scathing attack on the United States yesterday, following one of the country’s bloodiest days, blaming Washington for Iraq’s troubles and calling for a mass demonstration on April 9 — the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. ...

Al Sadr’s statement was his first since March 14, when he urged his supporters to resist US forces in Iraq through peaceful means. Al Sadr has been said by US and Iraqi officials to be in Iran, but his aides insist he is still in Iraq. The latest statement was read to worshippers during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa.

"I renew my call for the occupier (the United States) to leave our land," he said. "The departure of the occupier will mean stability for Iraq, victory for Islam and peace and defeat for terrorism and infidels." Al Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militiamen fought US troops in 2004 but have cooperated with an ongoing US-Iraqi security push in Baghdad, blamed the presence of US forces for the rising violence, lack of services and bloodshed.
(my emphasis)
The highligted portion of that quote does not mean that Muqtada's fundamentalist JAM are nice people. They aren't. It does mean in the current situation, where the US is backing the Shi'a-dominated government against the Sunnis in their counterinsurgency and civil war, Muqtada and JAM have an interest in seeing the anti-Sunni fighting succeed so far as it can for now.

Rationality often goes out the window in wars, though. If enough Shi'a continue to be killed by Sunnis, Muqtada may decide it's no longer worth playing it safe and become more actively involved in violent action again.

The invaluable Juan Cole adds some details at his Informed Comment
blog post of 03/31/07:

Shaikh Abd al-Hadi al-Muhammadawi read out the sermon in the Kufa Friday Prayers Mosque. Muqtada demanded that US troops leave the country "even if the American Congress were to decide they should stay in Iraq." He insisted, "The issue of whether US troops should remain in Iraq depends on the Iraqi people, and no one has a right to extend their stay or to demand that they remain."

He added, "The departure of American forces from Iraq at the present time will bestow security on Iraq, represent a victory for peace, and mete out defeat to terrorism." He called on the Iraqi people "to fly the Iraqi flag above their homes and buildings and government offices to signify Iraqi sovereignty and independence."

He also pressed on all sections of the population "the necessity of letting the entire world hear that Iraqis reject the occupation."

He criticized "what has befallen Iraq during the Occupation, including tyranny, despotism, and the shedding of the blood of innocents." He complained about the lack of health and city services."

He added, "The Occupiers did not content themselves with all this, but also isolated Iraq from the Arab and Islamic worlds" and he accused the US, saying "they have proved able to sow the seeds of sectarian and ethnic conflict among Arabs and others, including between Arabs and non-Arabs among Muslims and others." He called on the people of Iraq to aid Iraq and to stand with it. (my emphasis)
One aspect of Muqtada's Shi'a movement that is important to remember is that, while friendly to Shi'a Iran, it does not have the strong ties to Iran that its larger coalition partners in the Iraqi government, the SCIRI and Da'wa, have long maintained. Muqtada's movement has also been notable for its Iraqi nationalism, emphasizing the need to preserve Iraq as a unified country.

Al Jazeera also reports on Muqtada's statement:
Al-Sadr calls for anti-US protests 03/30/07. April 9, the day on which he called for demonstrations, is the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. They report:

The Iraqi Shia leader in a statement on Friday also renewed his call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

"Fly Iraqi flags atop homes, apartment buildings and government departments to show the sovereignty and independence of Iraq," al-Sadr said in the statement.

"[Show]that you reject the presence of American flags and those of other nations occupying our beloved Iraq," he said.
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