Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued his first official comments about the violence Wednesday evening, condemning the U.S. approach to dealing with the Shiite uprising. In a written statement bearing his seal, Sistani called for both sides to pursue a peaceful resolution and “refrain from escalating steps that will lead to more chaos and bloodshed.”
It has been suggested that the decision to force a confrontation with Sadr by closing his newspaper and issuing a warrant for his sidekick was a carefully-planned one. That wasn’t foolish on its face: there are times to force an issue. If we knew we were going to have to fight him, and his power was growing, then sooner might have been better than later, and the overlap with Fallujah was just bad luck.
But if the confrontation was planned, why wasn’t overwhelming military force ready to deal with the predictable blowback? And why hadn’t someone made absolutely sure that Sistani was on board?
Maybe Sistani’s even-handedness is just a bargaining ploy, but it doesn’t look that way.
I’ve been thinking that the situation looked worse than it actually was. Now I’m not.
Update: Here’s what Sistani said, according to Zeyad of Healing Iraq, who also provides some analysis:
“We condemn the behaviour of occupation forces in dealing with the current events, and we also condemn any trespass against public and private property, or any other conduct that may disrupt security and obstruct Iraqis from their jobs in serving the people”.
Note: no condemnation of killing the occupiers.