June deadline, uncertain future root of violence

Posted: Thursday, April 08, 2004

It is a testament to what the coalition has achieved that the principal Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has called on Sadr to ''stop resorting to violence'' and to turn away from a ''course that could destroy the nation.'' But just because Iraq's nominal future leadership favors a course of moderation doesn't mean that's the course Iraq will take. Moderation is a virtue, but its defect is its reluctance to confront extremism with anything but moderation. In Iraq today, this will not do.

It is not simply a matter of political or strategic necessity, but rather the moral obligation of the coalition, to ensure that the monopoly on the use of force rests firmly in the hands of legitimately constituted authority.

Whatever price ordinary Iraqis will pay in the coming weeks to ensure that outcome will surely be a small one next to what they'll have to face at the hands of an emboldened Sadr, an emboldened Iran, and an emboldened Fallujah street. We trust Bremer and Co. know this, too.

The Jerusalem Post

April 6

... The violence in Iraq has been triggered by the imminence of the June deadline for returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people. What we are seeing is a sudden jockeying for position among the rival Shia groups. One group in particular is involved the radical Jamaat al-Sadr al-Thani, known as the ''Sadr group'' after its leader, Muqtada Sadr, the son of a Shia cleric killed by the old Baathist regime. The leaders of the Sadr group remained inside Iraq during the Saddam era. They are trying to build support by opposing other Shia groups whose leaderships were in exile in Iran, chiefly Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior and popular Shia cleric in Iraq. ...

If there is a lesson to be drawn from the current unrest, it is not to delay free elections. That would only give extremist factions such as the Sadr group the opportunity to create more mayhem in the hope of using the street to gain what they might not be able to through the ballot box. However risky elections might be, letting the Iraqi people decide the relative merits of their own political parties is a surer way of isolating the radicals than relying overlong on coalition troops. A swift election is likely to give a mandate to al-Sistani and show the relative weakness of the Sadr group. ...

The Scotsman, Edinburgh

April 6

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