It may not be quite as interesting to the world press as when Israel does it, but Sunni Palestinians are “under siege” by Sadr’s Mahdi army. One of the Palestinians with whom Times bureau chief Ned Parker spoke with for the original article spoke with him again, and claims Sadr’s men are throwing Palestinian families out of the complex to take it over for themselves.
Many Iraqi Shiites just see it as payback:
The seeds of communal hatred lay in the privileged status given to the Palestinians by Saddam. He provided the community, which settled in Iraq in several waves after the creation of Israel in 1948, with government-owned and subsidised housing. In return, he appropriated the Palestinian cause, portraying himself as the defender of Arab nationalism.
Saddam (who was quite chummy with Arafat) used the Palestinians like most Arab despots do: as props in his little Arab-nationalism stage play. Now after Saddam, they’re not faring well under Sadr, who is shelling the compound in which many of them live. Now he’s the one using the Palestinians for his own little Shia-nationalism game.
Unlike many of the problems in Iraq, however, this one has a definite source at the head of the Mahdi army. Moqtada al-Sadr is not just a racist thug, but a threat to Iraq’s future.
What’s it going to take to eject him from play? Would catching his men with thirty million dollars worth of heroin make people realize he is simply never going to be a credible and honest player in Baghdad politics? No, since that happened two years ago, I guess it wouldn’t.