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Sadr’s Peaceful Protest Gambit

Having threatened to renew his intifada against the U.S. and the Iraqi government, Moqtada Sadr has launched a new gambit while his forces are under attack by a U.S.-Iraqi offensive in Sadr City: peaceful protest. Or, rather, peaceful protest . He’s turning himself into a national martyr.

The New York Times:

The latest episode in the struggle between the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr and the Iraqi government unfolded Sunday on the streets of Sadr City, where members of Parliament demonstrated peacefully while clashes occurred a few blocks away.

Several hours later, Shiite militiamen in the Sadr City district took advantage of a huge dust storm that enveloped Baghdad, and kept American aircraft grounded, to fire at least a dozen mortar rounds at the Green Zone, the home of the American Embassy and of many Iraqi government officials.

The mix of peaceful protest and armed attacks is characteristic of the many levels on which the Sadr movement and the government are locked in an all-out fight for political advantage. At stake is the outcome of October provincial elections in which other Shiite parties in the government stand to lose seats to Mr. Sadr’s supporters.

The protest reportedly included parliamentarians from the Sunni and Kurdish blocs as well, which is a big deal just on a symbolic level. McClatchy:

"Whatever point the crisis reaches we will keep our efforts to put an end to it," said Ahmed Radhi, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni Muslim bloc. Radhi said the leaders formed a committee to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to solve problems plaguing Sadr City.

"We have a delegation meeting with Maliki to let him know the real situation going on in the city," said Nassar al Rubaie, a Sadrist. "We have lawmakers from different blocs and parties to come and watch the situation on the ground."

Lawmakers representing the Iraqi National Accord, the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue and the Kurdish alliance also were present. The leaders said they were moved by pictures of civilian casualties as well as the health crisis plaguing residents in Sadr City.

Note that the parliamentarians are protesting against actions taken by Maliki against a man who controls an illegal militia. Barometrically, this says that Sadr is the strong horse and the prime minister is the weakling.

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