Rumsfeld's rejection of Islamic state angers Shias

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence, will have won plaudits from his zealous friends by declaring that an "Iranian-style" Islamic government "is not going to happen" in Iraq. But his words fell on stony ground outside the al-Muhsen mosque in Baghdad yesterday.

Members of the huge Shia crowd gathered for Friday prayers were quick to spot the contradiction in his position.

"I thought the Americans said they wanted a democracy in Iraq," said Kassem al-Sa'adi, a 41-year-old merchant. "If it is a democracy, why are they allowed to make the rules?"

About 13,000 people gathered outside the mosque where the imam, Jabal al-Khafji called for an Islamic state in Iraq. The cleric's view is widely shared by Iraq's Shia majority which is clamouring for the occupying forces to be removed.

Dr al-Khafji said that no political alliances should be formed by Shia groups unless it was with Islamic groups. Islam must dictate all policy-making, he added.

Any move to an Iranian-style Shia Islamic state would also be opposed by the Kurds, the Iraqi secular intelligentsia and the Sunni minority. Yet pressure is building. Iran is quietly at work in Iraq's Shia community, with intelligence agents reportedly active in the south. The Iranian-backed Badr militia has been asserting itself in border towns.

The millions of Shias who gathered this week in the holy city of Karbala served as a warning to the US that it must find some way of accommodating the clerics. A move in that direction was evident yesterday on the streets.

Patrolling the worshippers was a band of Iraqi policemen wearing freshly pressed uniforms, moustaches and nervous frowns. They are members of the old civil police force. They played a mundane walk-on part in the regime's apparatus but their appearance was enough to set off alarm bells.

These men had been re-packaged in an effort to ease their passage into one of the most sensitive parts of the new Iraq. It was also a tentative attempt to bring the Shias under the larger umbrella of the still-unformed government and its law enforcement agencies. Only a few carried pistols, and these were hidden.

All wore labels stating their rank and – in an effort to establish their legitimacy before the locals – a logo showing Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr, the Shia cleric whose murder by Saddam has made him a martyr. His stature is such that Saddam City – the Shia quarter of Baghdad – has been renamed after him.

While the crowd listened to the imam's address, police formed a line separating the media from the mullahs and their followers. But their authority was nothing compared to the other force supervising the occasion – young men with ammunition belts and Kalashnikovs, charged by their religious leaders with maintaining order. They directed the traffic and the crowds, and stood on the rooftops, guarding against attack. These are part of the Shia apparatus which currently runs the show in this part of the capital, just as they do in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala and some of the border towns.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference