British Official: Basra Shiites who Oppose Sistani and Muqtada Keep Quiet
According to the London daily ash-Sharq al-Awsat, an informed Brtish diplomat says that Muqtada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani have wide support in the southern, largely Shiite port city of Basra. He said it is to the extent that those who disagree with them avoid publicly stating their position. He said most demonstrations in the city have been for the sake of higher wages (i.e. they are driven by material and not ideological concerns). The official, who was posted to Basra for several months, denied that there are daily disturbances there, and said that the city is beginning to incline toward peace and calm. He pointed to the need for Iraqis to do their own administration. He compared the demonstrations in Basra to those organized by labor unions in the UK in the 1960s.
The official noted that the recent demonstrations of mid-January were peaceful, and asserted that they would remain so because Sistani has asked his followers to avoid violence. He said Sistani enjoys enormous respect and that it is important to listen to what he says. He denied, however, that there is unanimity about Sistani’s stances, admitting that those who disagree with him tend to keep their own counsel. He said that when these dissenters are asked about Muqtada, they maintain that “His father was an excellent man, but he is just a boy.”