Can someone tell me what the hells going on in Najaf!?!?

Najaf has had some of the heaviest fighting seen in recent months.

But whats going on there, and how will it work out. I keep getting a confusing picture from the Media and the ordinary Iraqi Blog, one where the U.S is destroying a holy site to get to a popular Mullah, and another where everyone hates him, supports the Interim government and wants the site not to be destroyed, but made sure it is respected.

But I’d rather have an all round opinion what the hell is going on there in Iraq? What do people want in Iraq, do people support the government we installed?

Surely, you’re not expecting an unbiased assessment. There is no monolythic Iraqi People. Some are delighted, some are pissed off, and some don’t give a shit.

Is there an all round opinion anywhere? Why should Iraq be different?

Being able to have an opinion might be a new thing for some too. It may take a while to adjust.

What Lib said. Or, to make something of an analogy:

What the hell do Americans want? Do they support the current administration (note that this MB is not exactly statistically representative of this country)? What’s going on with their uniform opinion?

I’ll give you my thumbnail sketch:

Moqtada Sadr is a youngish cleric (I think he’s in his early 30s). His father, now deceased, was a very well known and popular cleric. In fact, the Shia slums of Baghdad is named Sadr City after his father. Moqtada has traded on his father’s popularity to build a power base, particularly among the poorer Shia.

Ayatollah Ali Sistani is a very popular and well respected Shia cleric has called on the Shia to avoid violence and to cooperate (to a point) with the occupation. He is 78, very important cleric and his call for moderation has been a brake on Sadr’s behavior. To paint them in broad brush strokes Sistani is more a theologian who appeals to people’s better sides, while Sadr is a hot head rabble rouser.

Sadr has flirted with outright rebellion, while pulling back a bit, and Sistani has flirted with condeming Sadr, but come back fromt he brink. Neither man wants to take on the other head to head.

Last week Sistani went to London for heart surgery. He is very important to the coalition forces. I don’t think he is a puppet, but he is a voice of reason who can calm the increasing angry Shia of Iraq.

While Sistani was out of Iraq (the very next day), Sadr made his power play and his people started fighting the coalition. He made a point of launching his attack from Najaf, a very holy site to Shia and is sure to get a lot of support from Shia world wide.

The uprising is spreading throughtout the Shia south and parts of Baghdad. Sadr city is a battle zone and fighting flares up elsewhere in the city. Last night there was a pretty good gun battle behind my house between US and Sadr forces.

It’s not quiet an open rebellion yet. A lot of Sadr’s men are outright thugs and their mafia like behavior in Shia communities has really turned some people off. BUT he is quickly building a reputation as a Shia leader and his defense of the Najaf holy city plays well to his potential base.

I assume the allies are using the absolutely best cardiologists in the world to get Sistani up and running so that he can call for calm ASAP. If Sistani dies, it will be very bad for the coalition and for stability in Iraq.

Wow, that was pretty damned informative madmonk . Stay safe.

Thanks Madmonk, be careful.

I don’t know which I like more, that you expressed concern for me, or that someone replied to one of my posts :slight_smile:

Given where you are, I’d go with (A)
You should open up your own “ask the guy with bullets flying over his head” thread. And I don’t mean that jokingly. I bet you’d get tons of questions.

Your post made more sense than anything I could hope to get from the six oclock news.

On the beeb this morning they were saying that Sadr’s guerillas have retreated to the maze-like network of streets around the mosque.

Just to add that the mosque is extremely important to Shia Muslims, if it were touched by coalition forces, it would inflame the Muslim world against the west even more (if that’s possible). I’m likening it to the Golden Temple of Amritsar and what happened in India (and to a 747 off Ireland, and Indira Gandhi herself) after the siege.

I did reckon it’d turn into a very long siege, but it’s now being reported that there’s a temporary ceasefire.

Stay safe, madmonk. I really appreciate your on-the-ground perspective.

Yeah, that was a really informative summary. Thanks for the info!

Imagine that Italy is occupied by… okay, the Germans. If the previous Pope had a son (don’t worry about the mechanics of this, it’s just an analogy) who was occupying St. Peter’s in Vatican City, while the current Pope were in Rome, urging all good Catholics to seek a peaceful resolution to this conflict, you’d have a Western version of this setup.

The American forces have Sadr surrounded, but he’s inside the holiest site of Shi’a Islam. It would clearly be bad form for us to just bomb the shit out of it. Our push yesterday (12 Aug) was to surround his forces to keep anyone from escaping, and then to tighten the noose and drive them all into the shrine. During a particularly heated fighting retreat, several of the Madhi Army (Sadr’s militia) fired mortar rounds from inside the shrine. The damage to the Najaf neighborhoods is being viewed as Sadr’s fault, which is a lucky break for the Americans, and partially Ali al-Sistani’s doing. We have Sadr pinned down in a seige situation, surrounded, and outnumbered. He, on the other hand, is taking advantage of a tactic I remember well from second grade: he’s touching the base. For those who didn’t play Tag growing up, the rule is that we can’t tag him when he’s touching the base.

This is our fight to lose at this point, though. We’re not letting any food in, and all of the homes inside our cordon are evacuated. It’s a seige; we may actually be able to win this one without firing another shot, although it doesn’t seem likely.

Concern for the relative position of your head to the rest of your body seconded, and sending good vibes in your general direction (hey, if they miss, I’m sure someone else in your neighborhood could use some good vibes!)

Also, I’m glad you decided to stick around the SDMB, because I seem to remember you getting mighty annoyed with some intolerance around here not so long ago. Please stick around and keep us informed when you can, OK? At least some of us appreciate it.

Thanks for the well wishes, everyone. I did post an ask the aid worker in Iraq thread a while back, to, er mixed results.

Sadr is reportedly offering a cease fire. He’s done this before, you may recall in April he turned the heat up and then back down again.

Yeah, Eva I coughed up the five bucks. I got kind of stressed in a thread a while back but I’ve been lurking here since the beginning so why stop now? Plus today is my day off and hanging out on the SDMB is the highlight of the day. It’s not like I can really go for a jog.

Not getting responses to your posts doesn’t mean they went unoticed. But since you seem to feel shunned, I’m going to add that I’ve a great deal of respect for someone who choose to go to a dangerous place to help people, especially when it involves something as important for the future as education.

For those who missed it: Ask the Aid Worker in Iraq. Not that I wish to speak for them, but I would guess that the mods wouldn’t object to that one being bumped, if people still have questions.

Hi madmonk. Glad to see you’re still hanging in there!

I have heard an alternate theory of the Sadr and Sistani story. This version has it that rather than Sadr taking advantage of Sistani being out of Iraq, Sistani decided it’d be a convenient time to get the medical treatment he needed for some time.

According to this theory, Sistani did not want to have to get in the middle of this Sadr vs. the interim Iraq government-slash-US forces fight. If Sadr started this uprising and called for Sistani’s support or mediation to end the violence, Sistani could be put in an awkward position of choosing between being perceived to support a radical hothead or to support an Iraqi “puppet” government. There are more angles to this theory – which I’m not quite willing to label a conspiracy theory because it came from a decent media source – but that’s the general idea.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Sistani got out to avoid a confrontation. Like I said, the two have avoided direct conflict and Sistani is walking a fine line before being labeled a puppet of the US. The space for moderate voices in Iraq is rapidly eroding.

Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t this the kind of situation tear-gas was made for? We can’t bomb the hell out of the shrine, but couldn’t we make the shrine a very uncomfortable place to inhabit?

madmonk28, I’ll be thinking of you. Stay safe.

I don’t think we can set one foot on the shrine grounds. If we were to gas it, it could very easily escalate out of control. Plus this is a country that gives credence to all kinds of rumors, I think any action on the grounds of the mosque could start a major uprising. There’s fighting here in Baghdad again, lots of helicopters and some grenades and I hear it is the same in the south.

If you recall in April, Sadr’s last uprising coincided with a Sunni uprising in parts of Iraq. If that happens again, I think it might be enough to push Iraq over the edge into failed statehood.