Commentary Magazine


Muqtada al-Sadr, Civic Activist?

In response to a proposed agreement between the United States and Iraq, radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al Sadr has urged his followers to–wait for it–”work on collecting millions of signatures” to oppose it.

A petition? Welcome news, from my perspective. And a sign, maybe, that democratic political practice is becoming more entrenched in Iraq. But it’s quite a step down, nonetheless, for the man who waged insurgent warfare against coalition forces and the Iraqi government for years, and whom the Left blogosphere has long told us is the true voice of the Iraqi people (even though he’s probably holed up somewhere in Iran). Not long ago, al-Sadr would have been confident enough to call for armed revolt–and he would have it. I’m sure we’ll soon hear from these same people that al-Sadr’s call for a countrywide initiative petition means he’s transformed himself into the Iraqi Ralph Nader. More likely is that the Iraqi Army’s missions in Basra and Sadr City played the decisive role in changing al-Sadr’s tactics.