Muqtada: US is “Greatest of Satans”
Sistani in London for Treatment
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has been flown to London for medical treatment for a heart condition, removing him from the Najaf scene at a time of continuing fighting between radical Shiites and the United States.
Abdul Hussein al-Obeidi of the Associated Press reports that Muqtada al-Sadr had a fiery sermon read for him at his father’s mosque in Kufa on Friday, in which he attacked the United States as “the greatest of Satans.” He also blamed the US for last Sunday’s bombings of Iraqi churches, and for the wave of kidnappings in the country (charges that are untrue and outrageous, and calculated to spur Iraqis to throw the US out) [Some readers wrote to say they thought Muqtada might be blaming the US indirectly for these events. No, that is not the way I read him. He tends to charge the US directly with such violence, in the manner of a wild conspiracy theorist].
Al-Obeidi says that gunfire punctuated the reading of the sermon, as fighting continued to rage in several cities between Mahdi Army militiamen and Coalition forces.
Quotes from Muqtada:
”I say America is our enemy and the enemy of the people, and we will not accept its partnership.”
”I blame the occupier for all the attacks going on in Iraq, such as the attacks on the churches and the kidnappings,” he said in the sermon read by an aide, Sheik Jaber al-Khafaji.
”America is the greatest of Satans,” he said, adding that violence was in the interest of foreign troops who want ”to create divisions and to control our dear country”
In his sermon, al-Sadr called on his followers to continue the path of jihad or holy war even if he got killed.
”You have taken this path and you have to put up with the dangers and the obstacles. Heaven doesn’t come at no price,” he said. ”Don’t wait for me to get up on the pulpit and give you directions. I, certainly, will be gone because the enemy is lurking for me everywhere. Don’t let my death divide you.”
It seems to me possible that this recent outbreak of fighting has initiated an endgame. It is hard to imagine Allawi and the Americans putting up with this challenge. The question is whether they can crush it without fatally wounding their own authority. I still think “Iran 1978″ is the worst case scenario for Iraq, and a massive crackdown on the Sadrists, with Muqtada killed or captured, could set that ball rolling.
Al-Obeidi says the Americans allege that they have killed 300 militants in Najaf. I at first thought this must be a typographical error for “30.” [But it is being repeated on US television news this afternoon. If 300 is correct,it is an enormous toll for a couple of days. In all the fighting in April and May less than 2000 Mahdi Army fighters were killed. I wonder if the Mahdi Army has gotten careless and come out in the open, and were mown down by AC 130s. Or has the US figured out where the safe houses are and just bombed them?]