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Catfish and Cod
Friday, October 24, 2003
Al-Sadr's making trouble: IV.
(Link path: Taipei Times, The Guardian)

The coalition wants al-Sadr gone. Apart from the mess he's caused in the last few weeks, he's also suspected of assassinating several rivals in the Hawza power structure in Najaf. The coalition thinks they can pin the lynching/assassination of Abdel Majid al-Khoei on al-Sadr; that's what they'll use to grab him. Many still think al-Sadr was also behind the assassination of SCIRI's Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim (not the current one, but his brother), but I don't.

There were demonstrations in support of al-Sadr's forces in Karbala on Wednesday, but they remained peaceful. al-Sadr apparently has made a strategic decision not to push his luck at this time. Unfortunately, some damage still remains. Relations between the coalition and the residents of Sadr City are tenser now, as MSNBC reports.

Here's the best story out there right now on how the situation is in Karbala. The militias (al-Sistani's and al-Sadr's alike) are no longer guarding the Imam Hussein shrine or any of the city's major mosques. An agreement between the Hawza and the sheikhs of Karbala has resulted in an official, nonpartisan police force. The agreement stipulates that mosques will not be used as ammo dumps or shelters for partisans. Hopefully, this will take control of mosques off the political chessboard. Many stories have reported that al-Sadr sought not only the propaganda value of holding the mosques of Najaf and Karbala, but also the steady revenue stream provided by donations from pilgrims to the holy sites.

My guess is that the coalition won't grab for al-Sadr now. He's a firebrand, arrogant and aggressive. As long as he doesn't do anything else foolish, they'll let him be, so as to prevent his movement from heterodyning. But as soon as he makes another move -- or if they get good intelligence that he's planning another move -- they'll get that warrant signed pronto, and then grab him.

Other episodes: I. II. III. IV. V. VI.