April 29, 2004


Mystery group wage war on Sadr's militia (COLIN FREEMAN, 4/29/04, The Scotsman)

FOR the past month they have been the rude young pretenders, a rag-tag slum army ruffling the quiet dignity of Iraq’s holiest city.

For every day that the United States army fails to act on its threat to crush them, the Shiite militiamen of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have grown in confidence in their stronghold in Najaf.

Now, however, a shadowy resistance movement within might be about to succeed where the 2,500 US marines outside the city have failed.

In a deadly expression of feelings that until now were kept quiet, a group representing local residents is said to have killed at least five militiamen in the last four days.

The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadr’s presence and come amid simmering discontent at the havoc their lawless presence has wreaked.

The group calls itself the Thulfiqar Army, after a twin-bladed sword said to be used by the Shiite martyr Imam Ali, to whom Najaf’s vast central mosque is dedicated. [...]

[W]hile Iraq’s leading Shiite moderate cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has warned the US that the city border was an uncrossable "red line", he is known to share the anger of many Shiites about Sadr’s use of a holy place as a sanctuary.

Local residents, moreover, are deeply angry at how his revolt has robbed them of their livelihoods in recent weeks.

Since Sadr’s forces drove out Spanish troops this month, the tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims who keep the city’s hoteliers, taxi drivers and restaurateurs in business have become a mere trickle.

During a visit to the city by The Scotsman last week, some residents branded Sadr "the second Saddam", claiming his followers regularly intimidate locals who speak against him.

So we should probably prepare for the flood of apologies from the ignorant folk whose feverous imaginations mistakenly perceived Sadr as leading a popular Shi'a uprising, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2004 2:40 PM

Nah, you should brace for the flood of people saying that these are the work of vicious right-wing militias who are the REAL perpetrators of most human-rights violations in Iraq.

Posted by: brian at April 29, 2004 2:46 PM

Dang right Bossman, I want see these people posting their apologies on this blog right-a-way.

How they could have ever doubted is beyond. Trust me Boss I'm with you. (sniff)

Posted by: h-man at April 29, 2004 3:28 PM

Brian is right. This will just be used later to accuse the Iraqi government of running death squads, just as was done for USA support governments in Latin America. Clearly anyone fighting against the Mahdi is just a CIA brainwashed deathbot.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 29, 2004 4:35 PM

No apologies here. We still don't control E. Baghdad and the neighborhoods of several southern cities. Sadr has his rivals, and no doubt a few are taking potshots. Nonetheless, he's still there, and we're still pounding sand.

Also, considering the [****] going on Abu Ghraib, I certainly wouldn't put it past the CPA to hire a few hit squads to do their dirty work. At least it would be more dignified than what our warders have been up to.

Posted by: Derek Copold at April 29, 2004 6:01 PM

A trickle is more than they were enjoying a year ago, no?

The idea that some Shia are incensed that -- gasp! -- mosques are used as fortresses is funny.

It does show how little the author knows about Islam, though.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 29, 2004 10:42 PM

Derek and Harry, right on cue...

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2004 10:49 PM

And we're both right.

Hey, how 'bout that uncompromising stand at Fallujah?

Posted by: Derek Copold at April 30, 2004 10:16 AM

The attacks on al-Sadr by Shi'ites and the willingness of Sunni to put down the resistance proves your point? As does the resistance itself? So closes the circle...

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 10:34 AM

The events of the past month do confirm me in several themes I've emphasized since before the war began.

The inability of Iraqis to govern themselves, or even to recognize themeselves.

The insufficient ruthlessness of the American use of force.

I did not, in the beginning, anticipate the degree of incoherence, shillyshallying and general ineptness of the US policy.

As things stand today, April has been a disaster for everybody.

Except, I guess, me. And I'd rather have been wrong.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 30, 2004 8:04 PM

Kurdistan is emerging as a model Islamic state. The Shi'a failed to rally to Sadr. The Sunni stayed generally calm. The UN is there ready to take responsibility. We have hardly any casualties over the course of a year long war. We're gone in July and they're ready to run their own country. Hard to see how much better things could have worked out.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2004 8:15 PM

You're counting your democrats before they're hatched. I still think the model is Somalia.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 30, 2004 10:24 PM