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Iraq Shiite Cleric: Sunnis, Shiites Unite Against Israel
by reposted
Friday Jul 21st, 2006 7:03 AM
Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Sunnis and Shiites Friday to unite so that Muslims can defeat Israel - even without weapons.
Al-Sadr, a strong critic of the U.S., condemned Israel's attacks on Lebanon during a speech in the southern city of Kufa. He urged the international community to act quickly "to stop Israel's terrorism against Lebanon."
"We promise you all that we will not forget our people in Lebanon despite our suffering from the American occupation. I will continue defending my Shiite and Sunni brothers and I tell them that if we unite, we will defeat Israel without the use of weapons," he said.

"I want to remind you of a very important thing. The collapse of the World Trade Center towers in America" was almost five years ago, al-Sadr said. "The same way America's idol collapsed, another idol will fall, and it is called Israel."

He said Israel's actions in Lebanon were the result of "boundless spite" and that Israelis "do not differentiate between a child, a woman or a civilian installation."

"It is the greatest form of terrorism," al-Sadr said.

In Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Sadr City, dozens of al-Sadr's supporters marched in the streets wearing black uniforms and chanting slogans in support of the leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah.
Later, people stomped on U.S. and Israeli flags before setting them on fire.

Days into the fighting the Bush administration seemed reluctant to embarrass the Israelis by suggesting, let alone confirming, that Israel's attacks against Hezbollah just might produce threats to the civilian population in Lebanon. If someone wants to argue that that reluctance was merely gross incompetence by the State Department, your call for Condi Rice's resignation needs to be part of that particular appeal to be considered serious.

But giving Israel the "atta-boy" treatment creates other serious problems for legitimate American interests. Already Turkey is explicitly citing Israel's unrestrained move into Lebanon as a precedent to move into Kurdistan. Turkey's Hezbollah is the Kurdish Workers Party (PPK) and Turkish forces have had running gun battles with their long-time foe in recent weeks.

The Turks are basically demanding that U.S. forces take out the Kurdish guerillas or the Turks will. But Kurdistan is the one corner of Iraq that is relatively peaceful and shows signs of one day becoming a functioning society that respects the rule of law, a rarity for the region. Even though the PPK does not enjoy widespread popular support among Iraqi Kurds, U.S. moves against it might complicate U.S. aims for Iraq.

The Kurdish angle alone, then, is solid footing upon which to craft a U.S. policy that is something other than, "Whatever Israel wants." It is also worth noting that nascent links between Kurdistan and Israel did not stand in the way of Israel doing what it thought it had to do to secure its aims. But there is more.

Part of Britain's reluctance to go as far as the U.S. in backing Israel without reservation no doubt stems from the placement of 7,000 British troops in Shiite-dominated southern Iraq. Were there to be some sort of sympathetic Shiite response to Hezbollah's fight against Israel, the area around Basra would be one of the first places in the region you'd look for it.

Sure enough, the past few days have seen clashes between the Mahdi army of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and British forces. The British foreign ministry has strenuously tried to beat back any linkage between the two conflicts, but has been tripped up by the issue of Iranian involvement in both.


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