Far from being an Iranian instrument, among Iraqi Shi’ite leaders, Moqtada al-Sadr is probably the least susceptible to Iranian influence. Journalist Bartle Breese Bull, who has spent several years in Iraq observing the Sadr movement, wrote in the New York Times on June 3 that “The Sadrist movement has always been about Iraq for the Iraqis. They might accept help from Iran – and I saw Iranian supplies in their compounds in Najaf in 2004 – but the movement is not for sale. Mr. Sadr gets his strength from the street. And the Arabs of the Iraqi street have no time for Persian bosses.”
“The militia has a structure familiar to U.S. soldiers: brigade and battalion commanders leading legions of foot soldiers. Its fighters are willing and able to attack Americans with armor-piercing bombs, mortars, machine guns and grenades. Meanwhile, the political wing of Sadr’s movement plays an outsize role in the national government.”
Prominent Shiite and Sunni politicians called on Iraqi civilians to take up arms to defend themselves after a weekend of violence that claimed more than 220 lives, including 60 who died yesterday in a surge of bombings and shootings around Baghdad.
Published: 22 May 2007
There is something obscene about watching the siege of Nahr el-Bared. The old Palestinian camp – home to 30,000 lost souls who will never go “home” – basks in the Mediterranean sunlight beyond a cluster of orange orchards. Soldiers of the Lebanese army, having retaken their positions on the main road north, idle their time aboard their old personnel carriers. And we – we representatives of the world’s press – sit equally idly atop a half-built apartment block, basking in the little garden or sipping cups of scalding tea beside the satellite dishes where the titans of television stride by in their blue space suits and helmets.
Extremists are using violence to drive a wedge further between Shiites and Sunnis, posing more challenges for the US.
Scorched is the right title for Wajdi Mouawad’s play about Lebanon. The word “Lebanon” doesn’t occur in the script and “the army invading from the south” – the Israeli army, of course – remains preposterously anonymous. But any playwright who calls a town “Nabatiyeh: or refers to a prominent Shia figure called “Shamseddin” – the late Mehdi Shamseddin was the leader of the Shia clergy in Lebanon – hasn’t tried very hard to hide the country in which his powerful, murderous scenario takes place. Suitably bloody, Scorched is a story of love, family honour, civil war and barbarity.
Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government and its militia allies appear willing to let the U.S. military escalation go only so far — in the direction of taking on the rebellious Sunni minority.
Our correspondent on a concerted attempt to confront Iran and Shia Islam
January 3, 2007
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Last Saturday was a strange day. It started with the hanging of Saddam Hussein. The more I read about the hasty, quasi-legal maneuvers used by Iraq’s Shiite leaders to rush Saddam to the gallows on a Muslim holiday, Id al-Adha, and the more I watched the grainy cellphone video of the event, in which a guard is heard taunting Saddam with chants of “Moktada! Moktada!” — the Shiite cleric whose death squads have killed hundreds of Sunnis — and the more I read of the insults Saddam spat back, the more it resembled a tribal revenge ritual rather than the culmination of a constitutional process in which America should be proud to have participated.