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
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions