Saturday, August 07, 2004

Sistani's Health and Sadr's Army

In the middle of a strong post discussing the fighting in Najaf and elsewhere, Juan Cole mentions that Sistani's alleged heart trouble was merely a ruse to get him out of Najaf:

"Al-Hayat reports that Sistani's reason for leaving at this juncture was to remove himself from the scene of the fighting and to lift the mantle of his authority from the Sadrist movement. It was alleged that his distance from Muqtada, always substantial, had widened further in recent weeks. Al-Hayat suspects that if Sistani has ceased trying to protect Muqtada, it could mean that a decision has been made to put an end to him.

"So, I think al-Zurufi and the Americans sat down and planned the crackdown on the Mahdi Army. (It may be that the caretaker government of Iyad Allawi and especially hardline Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib spurred al-Zurufi on.) I also think Muqtada sat down and planned out how to keep the Mahdi Army ensconced in Najaf (which is not their natural territory) despite the truce. Neither side had realistic expectations of the truce, or was sincerely committed to any sort of compromise that would be acceptable to the other side."


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