Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's all Richard Dawson's fault!

At Heart of Iraqi Impasse, a Family Feud

Ohhh...they're not talking about the game show...

NAJAF, Iraq -- On one side of the grinding political deadlock over who should lead Iraq's next government is a plain-spoken cleric with the puffed cheeks and patchy beard of youth, a fiery icon of the downtrodden with an exalted family name: al-Sadr.

On the other is a wizened mullah from the clerical old guard, whose al-Hakim clan founded Iraq's largest political party and whose scholarly air belies a reputation for ruthlessness.

Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim head the two leading dynasties of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, whose spiritual home is this ancient southern city. They operate the country's two largest Shiite militias -- the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, respectively -- each with more than 10,000 men under arms. And they are heirs to rival movements that for generations have competed, sometimes violently, for supremacy in the hearts and minds of their long-persecuted people.

The two men are now on opposing sides of the dispute over whether Ibrahim al-Jafari should retain his post as prime minister. The impasse remains unresolved despite months of negotiation and intense U.S. pressure, and hinges not only on myriad political factors but on the two clerics' family feud.
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