Wednesday, June 09, 2004

What did we Create in Iraq?

We created an enemy who may turn out to be a monster. Yeah, we're slaughtering Al-Sadr's men like there's no tomorrow, and it appears we never were prepared for the kind of diplomacy necessary to handle the more radical of the Iraqi factions. This goes to poor planning for the peace. He's disqualified for the election, but when a popular guy is disqualified that can only mean bad things.

NAJAF, Iraq - After months of losing hundreds, if not thousands, of men in battles with the U.S. military, firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appears to be more popular than ever in Iraq.

American coalition leaders were optimistic that last week's truce calling for al-Sadr to move his men out of the holy cities of Najaf and Kufa was a sign of a weakened leader.

But many Iraqi religious and political leaders say al-Sadr's public appeal is higher than ever and that he and his followers seem poised to gain ground in Iraq's political arena, threatening America's plans for the country.

If elections were held today, polls and interviews on the street suggest, the virulently anti-American al-Sadr would command a big percentage of the vote.

In a recent poll of 1,640 Iraqis across the country, by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, the numbers for those who either somewhat or strongly supported al-Sadr were higher than those of the new prime minister and a long list of other high-ranking Iraqi government officials. More striking was that support for al-Sadr was just 2.8 percentage points behind the 70 percent polled by the established Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al Sistani.

This is a failure waiting to happen. If it hasn't already.