2004 May 25 Tuesday
Popularity Of Muqtada al-Sadr Growing In Iraq

Voice Of America reports on a poll taken in late April in 7 Iraqi provinces which shows strong support for cleric and insurgent militia leader Al-Sadr.

In the survey, conducted by the year-old Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, 32 percent of the respondents said they strongly support the fiercely anti-coalition Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. Another 36 percent said they somewhat support the cleric, even though he is being sought by the coalition for his alleged involvement in the murder of a Shiite rival, who was killed last year.

The poll numbers place the radical cleric among the three most admired figures in the country, behind the top religious authority for the majority Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the political head of one of the largest Shiite parties, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari.

There is no peace-loving "silent majority" in Iraq. The majority support a rebel cleric. Sistani is more popular but Sistani doesn't have a militia for angry frustrated youth to join to get status.

Time reports that young and unemployed Shiites who join the Mahdi Army see Sadr as a defender of Islam against America.

U.S. officials say the Mahdi Army has perhaps 5,000 fighters nationwide, but last Friday there were almost that many in Kufa and nearby Najaf, 6 miles away.


Most are ready to die for al-Sadr because they say he is the only one who dares to stand up for Islam against the Americans.


Since the U.S. came, says Ali, the people have had "no services, no electricity, no water, no work."

Iraq has a fairly young population. Young single unemployed men brought up to see all relationships as high stakes struggles over dominance and submission are going to jump at the opportunity to become dominant males.

If the Bush Administration had been far more aggressive about trying to rebuild and to pull large numbers of Iraqis into paying jobs then at least some of the current violent opposition would not have happened. But an occupation of Iraq was always going to be a very difficult undertaking. There are many reasons why liberal democracy hasn't taken hold in any Arab country. We ignore those reasons at our peril.

Update: In this popularity poll in Iraq notice one person whose name is notably missing from the top 3: Ahmad Chalabi.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 May 25 12:09 AM  MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls

TangoMan said at May 25, 2004 5:23 AM:

Demographics tell the tale. The population in the Middle East is, on average, growing three times fasters than their economies are adding jobs. Chronic unemployment is not unique to Iraq. Foreign investment, other than oil related, almost completely avoids the Middle East. The pride of Islam makes climbing the economic ladder and starting at the bottom something to be disdained. The pervasiveness of hate for the West and the lack of opportunity and muslim male dignity lead to the explosive situations we see playing out.

The region is hopeless, and if not for its oil, it would be best to leave them to their own devices.

lindenen said at May 25, 2004 9:26 PM:

Of course, we would love to leave them to their own devices but they came calling on a September morning.

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