Muqtada to Bush: Back off or Lose the Election
The Saudi London daily ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Muqtada al-Sadr called Friday upon US President George W. Bush to “withdraw his forces from Iraq or face a true revolution.” At the same time, one of al-Sadr’s aids affirmed that US civil administrator Paul Bremer had rejected attempts to arrive at a ceasefire. Muqtada wrote in his Friday prayers sermon, which was read out by Jabir al-Khafaji, one of his aids, in the Great Mosque of Kufa before hundreds of his supporters, “I direct my words at my enemy, Bush . . . If your justification for the war on Iraq was Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction, then these issues are past, and you are now making war on the entire Iraqi people. I advise you to withdraw immediately from Iraq, otherwise you will lose the elections for which you are now campaigning, and you will lose your own people, and other peoples, as well.” He explained, “America is not confronting a popular resistance, but rather a genuine revolution.”
Hasan al-Haidari, someone close to the leader of the Army of the Mahdi militia, said, “Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr did not come to perform Friday prayers in the Kufa Mosque because he is in spiritual retreat. He has also decided to go on a hunger fast, as a reaction against the American massacres” in Iraq. He was asked whether American and Spanish forces blockaded Muqtada and prevented him from going to Kufa to give his Friday sermon. Al-Haidari replied, “These allegations are devoid of truth, since he did not go to Friday prayers at all.” But another aid to al-Sadr deplored “the blockade of the road between Najaf and Kufa and the constant overflight of helicopters above that road. Al-Sadr calls on all to hold fast to the instructions of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has rejected the logic of force and bloodshed and is urging a resort to a political solution and negotiations.” Haidari said that many attempts had been made to mediate between Muqtada and Paul Bremer, but that Bremer had rejected them. “We are ready to hold talks, but Bremer insists on his rejectionist position.” Asked about the arrest warrant issued for Muqtada in connection with the murder of Abdul Majid al-Khoei in Najaf on April 10, 2003, al-Haidari asked why mass murderer Chemical Ali hadn’t been tried yet but the Coalition was after Muqtada, and said that in any case the conflict in Najaf was an internal Iraqi affair in which the Western powers had no standing.