State television said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki quickly imposed an indefinite curfew on vehicle traffic and large gatherings in Baghdad as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Just before the curfew was to take hold, Shiite militiamen carrying light weapons fanned out across Jihad, a mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad, police said. No violence was immediately reported.
The 30-member bloc loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr suspended its membership in parliament Wednesday, saying they will stay away from the 275-seat house until the government takes “realistic” steps to rebuild the Askariya shrine.
The suspension, announced in a statement by the bloc, is likely to weaken al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government and delay the adoption of a series of laws needed to build national reconciliation to reduce violence in Iraq.
But in the Washington Post report, there’s also this about Sadr:
Sadr called for peaceful demonstrations, and reconciliation within Iraq’s warring factions, to mark the minarets’ destruction. “We declare a three-day mourning period . . . and shout Allahu Akbar (God is greater) from Sunni and Shiite mosques,” Sadr said in a written statement, declaring that no Sunni Arab could have been responsible for the attack on the Shiite shrine.
Instead, he faulted the Iraqi government for failing to protect the landmark, and blamed the relentless violence in Iraq on the ongoing U.S. military presence.
Watch out for Sadr, who keeps making very clever political moves. I had a chat yesterday afternoon with Juan Cole, who detests Sadr as an authoritarian thug, but believes that if local elections were held throughout the Shi’ite south, Sadrists would win in every area except, possibly, Basra, and would also win in Baghdad. Which is one reason why local elections–one of the mythic benchmarks–are not likely to be held anytime soon.