Thousands of Shi’ites took to the streets of Baghdad today in the latest public expressing of opposition to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States and Iraq, presently the subject of contentious (and occasionally violent) debate in Iraq’s parliament.
In one particularly dramatic moment, an effigy of President Bush was hoisted onto the parapet that was once the home of a Saddam Hussein statue infamously toppled in a scripted “spontaneous” action during the 2003 invasion. The crowd pelted the effigy with shoes and water bottles, before it tumbled into the crowd and was set ablaze.
But beside being one in a long series of anti-SOFA protests organized by influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, comments at the rally by Mahdi Army veterans may portend a return to a violent insurgency against the US occupation if and when the SOFA finally does get out of parliament.
The Mahdi Army has had few clashes with the Iraqi government since a 2007 ceasefire deal, save for a bloody but fruitless assault by the Iraqi military against Mahdi positions in the city of Basra. Sadr has since sought to turn the militia into a nonviolent organization, but growing anger in the movement over the SOFA suggests that aim may soon be coming to an end.