RealNews

On Baghdad Streets, Loyalty to Rebel Cleric Is Still Fierce

On the groom’s last night as a single man, a bachelor party on his front lawn kicked off with song and dance. “We love you to death, Moktada,” a pair of singers crooned in praise of Moktada al-Sadr, the fiery anti-American cleric who, though absent, overshadowed the groom. “We love you as much as there are leaves on a tree.”Out came one of the groom’s best friends, waving his arms like a carnival barker. “Those who follow the Americans are dogs,” he yelled. “We swear by Moktada that we won’t let our machine guns stop!” Loyalty to the Shiite cleric burns fierce here in northeastern Baghdad, and especially in Sadr City, a vast slum of 2.2 million people, despite frequent American raids and almost nightly airstrikes. The American military has stepped up its campaign to rout the Mahdi Army, Mr. Sadr’s militia, on its home turf here, to drive him to the bargaining table. But it is often impossible to distinguish between civilians and fighters.Full Story

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