Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sadr the Marginalized

Is Moqtada al Sadr the ominpotent leader of the dominant popular movement among Iraqi Shia? That certainly has been and still is the MSM narrative. Facts tell a different tale.

For the several years, the MSM has relentlessly pursued a narrative that Moqtada Sadr is an immensely powerful and populist leader who commands the support of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia. The MSM regularly reports the news from the Sadrist perspective. A perfect example was provided by the Washington Post, the day after Labor Day, when they ran a very long and fawning article reinforcing the narrative and rewriting history from the Sadrist persepctive.

Based on all of the evidence coming out of Iraq, the MSM narrative appears false. The MSM vastly overstates Sadr's popularity and his Mahdi Army, itself a creation of Iran, is more a 1930's criminal mafia than an organized militia. You can find these and related arguments laid out here.

Today there is more evidence. Sadr has called for weekly protests of the ongoing Iraq-U.S. negotiation of a SOFA agreement that would provide the legal authority and framework for U.S. troops who remain in Iraq after the end of the U.N. mandate in January. Iran and its proxy, Sadr, are mortally opposed to the continuing presence of U.S. troops, as they are the one thing standing between them and the Lebanization of Iraq, with Sadr's Mahdi Army playing the role of Hezbollah.

So with Sadr supposedly commanding 60,000 plus men under arms and support from hundreds of thousands, if not millions of non-combatants, one would expect Sadr's calls for massive protests against the SOFA agreement to generate a huge turnout - if the MSM narrative were accurate, at least. But that is not the case.

This from the Weekly Standard:

The Associated Press put the best face on the turnout, saying “tens of thousands of Shiites” joined in. But the AP does not provide a breakdown on the protests.

AFP, Multinational Forces Iraq, and Voices of Iraq, an Iraqi news service, put the number in the thousands. Multinational Forces Iraq said more than 5,000 protesters were in Sadr Cit, and another 200-300 attended the protest in the Kadhamiyah district of Baghdad. AFP said “hundreds of Sadrists staged similar demonstrations” and said demonstrations were held in Basra, but no numbers were given.

There was a time when Sadr’s calls for protests put hundreds of thousands of Shia into the streets. Yet Sadr couldn’t get more than 6,000 to 7,000 join in on a protest on the day when most people attend mosque.

To put the current numbers into perspective, and estimated 2,000,000 Shia are estimated to live in Sadr City alone, and the Baghdad district is considered the bulwark of Sadr’s support. Yet Sadr couldn’t muster more than one quarter of one percent of the district's residents.

Read the entire article. Sadr is, in Iraqi a politics, a dangerous but increasingly marginalized figure. Its only in our MSM that he is powerful.

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