5,000 Sadrists Demonstrate Against Denmark in Kut
Sadr Pledges Solidarity with Syria against ‘Israel, UK, US’
AP reports that the young Shiite nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr has been behind many of the street protests held in Iraq during the past week against the Danish caricatures of Muhammad. It says that a big crowd of 5,000 came out in the southern Shiite city of Kut on Monday, protesting the caricatures and demanding that the over 500 Danish troops in Iraq be expelled from the country.
‘ Some 5,000 protesters rallied outside a government building Monday in the southern city of Kut, burning Danish flags and calling for the 530-member Danish military contingent to be booted out of Iraq. The demonstration came a day after a gunman shot at Danish soldiers, children hurled stones at another patrol and a homemade bomb was defused near their base in Qurnah, 300 miles southeast of Baghdad.
“All these things add up to the idea that we might not be as popular as we have been as a result of the Prophet Muhammad drawings,” said Capt. Filip Ulrichsen of the Danish contingent. ‘
Al-Zaman reports that al-Sadr during a visit to Damascus expressed his solidarity with Syria and Iran after his discussions with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. He also held discussions with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa. He said he talked with the latter about “both the Iraqi and the Syrian situation for the sake of establishing security in Syria and Iraq and to end American pressure against Syria and against Iraq.”
He described Syrian-Iraqi relations as “good,” and argued that they should be strengthened in all areas, thus embodying the mutual bonds between the two countries. He said at a news conference attended by a reporter from al-Zaman that Syria and Iraq both face common challenges, and that he had discussed with Sharaa ways of improving security in both countries and of bringing stability to the region.
Al-Hayat/ AFP report that Muqtada accused “the common enemy, Israel, Britain and America” of being “the ill-omened trinity that sows turmoil among us.”
Al-Zaman asked Sadr about the close relations to Iran of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Muqtada dodged the question, saying, “I hope to be a bridge among all, and among everyone who has an interest in building Iraq or the region of the Middle East– I will work to serve him, defending the Islamic states.” Sadr arrived in Damascus on Sunday.
Sadr’s bloc has at least 32 seats in parliament, about 12%, and they are demanding the service ministries in hopes of improving their standing with the people.
Meanwhile, Al-Zaman also reports that negotiations over who the prime minister will be and who will get what ministries have been put off until after the Shiite religious commemoration of Ashura’, honoring the death of Imam Husain, the martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at Karbala in 681 C.E. The United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite fundamentalist parties of which Muqtada’s Sadrists form a part, says that they will make another attempt to come to a consensus on their candidate for prime minister. They are reluctant to settle the issue with an up or down vote within the party coalition, presumably for fear it will break the coalition apart if the decision is made that way.