How powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr could snuff out Iraq’s mass street protests
A flurry of statements from the cleric in recent months has fractured the movement, prompting accusations of betrayal. He has pulled his supporters away from protest camps and then sent those followers back to battle those who remained.
Threats made by his militiamen have sent political activists into hiding. Sadr’s followers have attacked his critics with knives.
“They’re insulting Sadr, and we can’t allow it,” cried one of his supporters, Saeed Alaa al-Yassiri, on a recent day in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square as his group pushed other demonstrators back with sticks and knives. “They’re serving American agendas now. This square needs to be cleaned.”
Sadr is a storied figure in Iraq, with a history of agitation against U.S. troops and fierce loyalty from tens of thousands of pious and working class acolytes.
But he is also something of a shape-shifter; in the years since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the cleric has positioned himself variously as a sectarian militia leader, a revolutionary figure and a nationalist who can …continued .
[Source: Washington Post]