Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Juan Cole on Sistani's return:
Sistani will leave Basra for Najaf at 7 am Thursday morning Iraq time.

Sistani's offices in London, Karbala and Beirut also announced that he was calling on Shiite civilians to mount a peace march to Najaf to save the shrine of Imam Ali. He also called on both Mahdi Army militiamen and American military forces to vacate the city. The Karbala communique, acquired by a German wire service, spoke of the need to "expel the Americans from Najaf."

Al-Jazeerah is reporting that Sadr spokesman Aws Khafaji has announced a ceasefire by the Mahdi Army in honor of Sistani's return, and to ensure his safe passage through the south to Najaf. The Mahdi Army has been fighting British troops fiercely in Basra, Kut, Amarah and elsewhere in the south.

Sadr spokesman Ahmad Shaibani announced that the Sadrists were entirely willing to obey any command of Sistani's and would cooperate with him completely.

If Sistani does lead a popular march of the sort the press is describing, it might be the most significant act of civil disobedience by an Asian religious leader since Gandhi's salt march in British India. And it might kick off the beginning of the end of American Iraq, just as the salt march knelled the end of the British Indian empire..

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