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May 11, 2004
Shi'a to Sadr: Drop Dead

Reuters reports that far from leading a popular uprising against the infidel Anglo-American armies, the Shi'ite general population and religious leaders have begun counterdemonstrating to push Moqtada al-Sadr and his dwindling militiamen out of the holy city of Najaf:

Hundreds of people marched in Najaf on Tuesday calling on rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to pull his militia out of the Iraqi holy city. Witnesses said they marched to the central shrine area of the city before dispersing peacefully. Some Sadr gunmen fired in the air toward the end of the march, but most marchers had dispersed by then.

The demonstration, organized by Sadr's political foes, followed a smaller one on Monday and reflected increasing pressure from Shi'ite elders on Sadr to move his men out of the city as U.S.-led forces tighten their noose around it.

The al-Sadr militia have been reduced in number from continuing pressure by Coalition forces and a certain stupidity that keeps sending their members into the open to engage in fighting. The Marines have concentrated around Najaf and have been patiently closing in on al-Sadr, taking back a major building complex in Najaf late last week. Unless the al-Mahdi "army" either retreats or surrenders, a major battle will take place among the shrines of the Shi'a, something the US would love to avoid if possible. The Shi'ites do not want to see their mosques damaged either and have been pressuring al-Sadr to get the heck out of town, the sooner the better.

Such counterdemonstrations not only bely the notion of al-Sadr representing popular Shi'a opinion, but also shows how little control he has in Najaf, where he has concentrated his forces, such as they are.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 11, 2004 6:33 AM

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Tracked on May 11, 2004 8:48 AM

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