Sadr's Effect

I noted recently that Moqtada Al Sadr has begun calling for active resistance to push us occupiers out of Iraq. I wonder if he's had an effect?

The angry crowd chanted "Betrayers," in between outbursts of "Muqtada, Muqtada," invoking the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

A mob of about 200 mostly al-Sadr loyalists marched toward the heavily protected provincial council building, known as the "Karbala Green Zone," and hurled rocks at it before the Iraqi Army intervened to stop the crowd.


As police and ambulances approached to carry away victims, angry residents shot at them, witnesses said. The police responded, firing bullets into the air to dissipate the angry crowd. As the bullets rained down, a child and elderly man were killed, witnesses said.

200 in Karbala? Color me unimpressed.

Oh wait:

Wrapped in the Iraqi flag and chanting anti-American slogans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia snaked into the holy city of Najaf yesterday for a protest rally to mark the fourth anniversary of the toppling of Saddam Hussein and to demand the ejection from Iraq of US and British troops.

The march was a show of strength by the powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who had called for a peaceful mass protest to express opposition to "Iraq's occupiers". Ali Hussein, a member of Mr Sadr's al-Mahdi militia from Baghdad, said that about 1m-1.5 million supporters of Mr Sadr had taken part, though police estimates gave a figure of less than a million.

That's more like what I was expecting. Let's hope these people don't decide to cut our supply lines through the Shia south. That would be one of the few terrible things that are possible that haven't happened yet.

Incidentally, who, exactly, do the locals blame for the increasing violence outside of Baghdad?

Aqeel al-Khazaali, the governor of Karbala, blamed the Baghdad Security Plan for the attack inside the relatively safe southern city. Karbala is about 50 miles south of Baghdad.

"The Baghdad crackdown and the tribes in Ramadi are forcing the terrorists to leave their cities," he said. "Now Karbala is under fire from terrorists, and the central government has to take the necessary steps to help us to protect the holy city."

That's right. They blame the American Surge.

Finally, the incident I find the most troubling, via Greenwald:

In Diwaniya, in the south, where American and Iraqi forces have been clashing for more than a week with militiamen loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, American soldiers prevented Mr. Sadr’s followers from gathering and praying at a mosque dedicated to Imam Ali, an important figure in Shiism.

The militiamen then went to pray at the Sadr group's office, where Americans arrested three men, including the main spokesman. Mr. Sadr's supporters blocked the American vehicles from leaving, and the Americans released the three men, witnesses said.

Now that's trouble. This is exactly the sort of thing that made the American forces avoid conflict with Sadr - he's just too big to tackle. The specifics of the provocation don't even seem to matter. Whether Sadr is wanted for murder, ordering his army to attack American soldiers, or even kidnapping and holding an American soldier, there doesn't seem to be anything he can do that will create a meaningful penalty. His continued prominence dooms any concept of victory in Iraq.

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