Breaking News Us Military Forces

*Breaking News US military forces arrested Shaikh Muhammad al-Fartusi and two other clerics at a Baghdad checkpoint. This arrest provoked a big demonstration of 5,000 Shiites in front of the Palestine Hotel. I saw it on Fox Cable News, as reported by Jennifer Eccleston. I could see placards in Arabic saying “We demand the release of Shaykh al-Fartusi by the American Forces.” Al-Fartusi had been sent by the Najaf Establishment last week to the poor Shiite quarter of Baghdad, now called Sadr City, to preach the Friday prayer sermon at the al-Hikma Mosque to a congregation of 50,000. Al-Fartusi said in his sermon that the US could not impose a formal “democracy” on Iraq that allowed freedom of individual speech but denied Iraqis the ability to shape their own government. (Al-Fartusi appears to have an uncanny understanding of the principles of the Bush administration, domestically and abroad :-). He and his two colleagues went to Najaf on the weekend for consultations with Najaf, and were returning when the US troops arrested him at the checkpoint. I saw one report that said al-Fartusi is in the camp of Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Today, Reuters is saying that he is thought close instead to Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sadr Movement, which was implicated in the murder a week and a half ago of Abd al-Majid Khu’i, an American-backed cleric just arrived in Najaf from London. It remains to be seen whether this incident is a blip or the beginning of a major rift between the Shiite clerics and the US.

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