Sadr Calls off Demonstration; Threatens to End Cease-Fire; McCain confuses al-Qaeda with Shiites (Again)

Iraq Hearing follies. John McCain just can’t keep the branches of Islam straight. He said to Gen. David Petraeus:

‘ SEN. MCCAIN: There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
GEN. PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was, say, 15 months ago.

SEN. MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi’ites, all overall, or Sunnis or anybody else. ‘

What does that even mean? Do we really need another tongue-tied president who says incoherent things about the most important challenges facing the US? McCain keeps thinking that al-Qaeda is a Shiite, Iranian plot, when in fact its leadership is hyper-Sunni Egyptians and Saudis. As for al-Qaeda not being an obscure sect, well I’m not sure about the obscure part. But it is certainly a tiny fringe in the Muslim world, analogous to the far right gun nuts and white supremacists that formed the context for Timothy McVeigh. There is no prospect of the Qutbists or “al-Qaeda” as McCain is pleased to call them, taking over Iraq! They are not even popular in most Sunni Arab areas. As for the Shiites, they are a majority of Iraqis and they hate al-Qaeda (which has massacred Shiites), and they would just crush it if given the opportunity.

McCain keeps making this elementary error.

Muqtada al-Sadr called off his million-man march, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, saying he feared Iraqi government and American violence against the demonstrators.

He also hinted heavily that he might call off the freeze on the activities of his Mahdi Army.

In a statement released by his office, Muqtada complained of the stationing of security forces throughout Baghdad by the al-Maliki government. “It is as though the Iraqi people is in part or whole a wanted criminal.” He said that “one of the tyrants” had “made the Iraqi people in its entirety a dependent on the Occupier, unfortunately.”

He expressed his admiration for the Iraqi army, offered it an olive leaf, and called on it to help end the siege of the Sadrists. He said neither democracy nor elections could divide “us.”

“If this spreading out of the security forces suggests anything, it is that the government remains under severe American pressure and its deceptive, worldly, hateful policies, and remains under its tyrannical authority. For this reason, it attempts to stop the annual million-person demonstration against the Occupation, and forbids believers to participate in the elections, and strives with all its might to implement the American plan to partition Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines.”

Tom Engelhardt introduces a piece by Patrick Cockburn to launch his book on Muqtada al-Sadr.

Gary Kamiya quotes me in his Salon article, “The Iran Bogeyman is Back.”

Fred Kaplan sees the Petraeus/ Crocker testimony as a plea for more of the status quo and as a signal that nothing much will change before next year this time.

Veteran journalist Richard Reeves comments on the issue of torture and the Bush administration, taking some passages from my Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East as his starting point.

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