Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, April 13, 2004
DON'T SLIP UP on the blood on the ground of Fallujah.

The real battle is not there, and it's not going to be resolved by the gun.

This is the real battle:

In public, Moqtada Al Sadr swears fealty to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani. Attempting to co-opt Sistani, who's issued calls for quiet, is a smart strategy: As grand ayatollah, Sistani commands vastly more allegiance from Shia Iraqis than the 30-year old Orson Welles look-alike. But now it's looking more like Sadr is trying to push Sistani out of the center of Shia politics. Late Monday night, Sadr's forces took control of the Imam Ali Shrine in the holy city of Najaf, stationing Kalashnikov-wielding thugs around one of the most important places in Shia Islam. The Los Angeles Times reporter in Najaf observed that "the move appeared calculated to heighten [Sadr's] profile among Shiites" in a city where Sistani is dominant.

The real battle is the political struggle for the hearts and minds of the Shia, and the direction that takes will be determined by the positions taken by these key men.

Provided the coalition goes on holding the ring. Or what's left of it.

The quote is from Iraq'd, a must-read at this critical time in the politics of Iraq.