The radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr RealVideo is urging his followers not to use force in opposing the Iraqi government and the presence of U.S. troops, and seems open to compromise.
Al-Sadr's military wing, the al-Mahdi Army RealVideo, is one of Iraq's most powerful and lethal militias. It has already waged two major uprisings against U.S. forces and a number of mutinies against the government.
In the southern city of Diwaniya earlier this month, the al-Mahdi Army easily defeated Iraqi military and police forces. To help regain some semblance of control, the troops had to seek the aid of U.S. forces.
Sadr said his call for compromise and civil resistance was for the sake of sparing Iraqi blood. But nevertheless, he still had some harsh words for the United States.
“I don't think this new attitude will persuade America to give up its tyranny. It is an aggressor country and will remain so. As for me, there will be no letup in my opposition to the occupier,” he said.
Sadr's bloc took part in the last parliamentary elections and won 30 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly. His bloc has two ministers in the government as part of the ruling Shiite coalition.
Sadr has a large following among the Shiites in Baghdad and several other cities in southern Iraq.
“I want you to wage a peaceful war against them (Americans). I do not wish to see a single drop of blood shed, because this is very dear to us. Engage them (Americans) in a popular, peaceful and political war,” he asked his followers.
However, he said Iraqis should expect nothing but “death and destruction” from the United States.