For the future stability of Iraq, it's time to arrest al-Sadr



For the future stability of Iraq,it's time to arrest al-Sadr
Scripps Howard: Get too aggressive with Muqtada al-Sadr, some believe, and you will ignite a general uprising in Iraq. There is counterevidence to that conjecture, and, meanwhile, it seems more than likely that as long as the Shiite cleric remains free, a stable, decent Iraq will remain seriously challenged.
The latest fighting appears proof enough that al-Sadr has not changed his spots. His followers broke a cease-fire, and he himself has gone back and forth between calling for revolution and calling for another cease-fire. His declared enemies are the U.S.-led occupation forces, but the interim Iraqi government could not stay in place at this juncture without those forces, and al-Sadr himself has once or twice made his hostility toward that government known.
Visions of theocracy
His dream, it seems clear, is of an Iranian-style theocracy. Can there be much doubt that he would like to be in charge of it? What we could then have is someone Saddam-like in his brutality and anti-American anger in the saddle again.
The man has many supporters. Of that there can be little question. But it also seems from news reports that most Iraqi Shiites, including clerics, view him as dangerous to their aspirations. It would hardly be unjust to arrest him -- he is an enemy in war, he is wanted on a murder charge, he is violently opposing the authority of the Iraqi government. His supporters might then fight ferociously, but isn't this a fight sure to happen sooner or later unless al-Sadr believably renounces his past statements?
An American analogy
A history lesson with some possible applicability concerns a leader in a fledgling republic and the challenge presented by rebellious farmers who did not want to pay an excise tax on whiskey and had rioted, fired shots at officials and attacked a tax collector. President George Washington, knowing that the federal government's authority could not be established if he let the rebels have their way, himself led a force against them, one large enough to keep the rebels from fighting back.
The analogy may not fit in every respect, but it's clear that the way to deal with such rebellions is to quell them decisively.

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