Cultural Revolutions

Violence in Iraq

Violence in Iraq has, since the end of “major combat operations,” been largely identified with the “Sunni Triangle” in the center of the country.  The Shia—who make up almost two thirds of Iraq’s 25 million people—were glad to see Saddam fall.  They were prepared to accept the occupation and cooperate with the new authorities on the assumption that there would be an election, after which the United States would transfer power to the new representative government and leave.  Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, knew that his people would benefit more than any other group from the promise of democratic elections.  His followers and allies accordingly accepted appointments to the Iraqi Governing Council.

Another Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, disagreed with al-Sistani’s approach.  He suspected that the United States would never agree to leave Iraq in the hands of her Shia majority, especially if the leaders of that majority were identified with political Islam and potentially friendly to the theocrats in Teheran.  Al-Sadr was far from enjoying the reputation and following of al-Sistani, but his anti-Western radicalism has attracted a hard core of several thousand mainly young and dirt-poor recruits for his militia, the “al-Mahdi Army.”  These “Sadriyyun” clashed with U.S. forces in late March when the authorities...

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