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Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr displayed his sociopolitical-military power in Iraq by calling for an anti-U.S. demonstration this past weekend.
Tens of thousands of followers—the Najaf police chief suggested as many as 600,000—heeded the call Monday and marched roughly three miles (5km) between the holy cities of Kufa and Najaf (both about 100 miles south of Baghdad). Demonstrators waved Iraqi flags, trampled upon an American flag, and shouted, “Yes, Yes to Iraq!” and “Yes, Yes to Muqtada! Occupiers should leave Iraq!”
According to an Associated Press report, Mr. al-Sadr also called upon his Mahdi Army to redouble their efforts, and for the Iraqi army and police to join them in expelling from their country “their archenemy,” the U.S. forces.
Mr. al-Sadr had been strangely quiet in recent months during the security crackdown in the Baghdad area. U.S. officials suggested he had been holed up in Iran. But the cleric has again taken up his anti-American rhetoric with written statements, the most recent calling for this protest as a signal to both Washington and Baghdad of his political strength.
Fearing potential carnage and mayhem, government officials hastily implemented a 24-hour non-vehicle curfew for the capital city.
Salah al-Obaydi, a senior official in Mr. al-Sadr’s Najaf organization, called the rally a “call for liberation. We’re hoping that by next year’s anniversary, we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty” (ibid.)
The head of Mr. al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc, Nassar al-Rubaie, said the U.S. presence was an affront to “the dignity of the Iraqi people. After four years of occupation, we have hundreds of thousands of people dead and wounded” (ibid.)
But U.S. officials suggested otherwise, saying the protest was peaceful, something that was not possible four years ago and therefore a good sign that progress is being made. “Iraq, four years on, is now a place where people can freely gather and express their opinions,” Gordon Johndroe, the National Security Council spokesman, said aboard Air Force One. “And while we have much more progress ahead of us—the United States, the coalition and Iraqis have much more to do—this is a country that has come a long way from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein” (ibid.)
In a Christian Science Monitor report, Wamidh Nadhmi, a political science professor at the University of Baghdad, said, “It proves that he’s the only man capable of amassing such a huge demonstration and shows the weakness of the government and its allies. He’s also trying to prove to all that he’s the moving spirit among Shiites and that he has not changed his mind about the presence of U.S. forces.”
On the other hand, some would recall a time when America had pride and confidence in its power and would not have tolerated such statements from a radical cleric—or the continued support he receives from neighboring Iran.
Several millennia ago, the ancient nation of Israel was told by God, “And if you will not yet for all this listen unto Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron [polluted], and your earth as brass [hardened soil]: and your strength will be spent in vain: for your land will not yield her increase, neither will the trees of the land yield their fruits” (Lev. 26:18-20).
The United States of America, Britain, Canada and other sister nations of the West are direct descendants of this ancient nation of Israel—and the breaking of “the pride of their power” is happening before our very eyes. For more information, you will want to read David C. Pack’s book America and Britain in Prophecy.