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al-Sadr Threatens Broad New Offensive After U.S. Crackdown In Baghdad

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mehdi Army Monday to launch a broad new offensive against U.S.-led occupying forces after a U.S. crackdown on his strongholds in Baghdad and across the south.


Iraqis question legitimacy of U.S. occupation

Sadoun Dulame read the results of his latest poll again and again. He added up percentages, highlighted sections and scribbled notes in the margins.

No matter how he crunched the numbers, however, he found himself in the uncomfortable position last week of having to tell occupation authorities that the report they commissioned paints the bleakest picture yet of the U.S.-led coalition's reputation in Iraq. For the first time, according to Dulame's poll, a majority of Iraqis said they'd feel safer if the U.S. military withdrew immediately.

Doubts about the Governing Council's competence and legitimacy resurfaced Saturday when about 2,000 of Iraq's top scholars and activists gathered at the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad to form an anti-American political bloc. A highly diverse crowd of Islamists, Christians, secular nationalists, Baathists and communists listened as speakers demanded an immediate withdrawal of American forces and the dismantling of the Governing Council, whose members rode into Iraq "on American tanks." Even the prospect of civil war sounded better to them than a prolonged occupation.

"We'd like the Americans to go even if that means a sectarian war," Ahmed al Baghdadi, a Shiite cleric, told the cheering crowd. "It would be a war among our boys and old guys like us would be able to settle it quickly."


Iraq's Political Puzzle, Piece by Piece
by Ira Chernus