The Badr Brigade and the Mehdi Army have been major disruptive forces based in the Shia areas of Iraq. They cover some 65,000 combatants and have directed themselves against (a) Coalition Forces, (b) the Sunni (especially those elements who are themselves organised into a variety of competing terrorists groups), and (c) each other. They have also infiltrated the Iraqi administration and what should be its forces of law and order.
The religious leader of the Shia in Iraq is the Grand Ayatollah Al al-Sistani. He has often seemed to be a respected figure in the background as the men of violence gained our attention. But there are periods at which his position comes very much to the fore. This started soon after the invasion when he issued a fatwa against Bremer's proposals to have the Iraqi Constitution written by outsiders. He stressed the need to transfer power to Iraqis as soon as possible.
He has now made a welcome appeal to Shiite tribal leaders to leave aside their divisions with the Sunni. His voice is widely revered.
Furthermore Shiite and Sunni tribal chiefs are said to be pondering the possibility of forming an alliance against terrorism around the 10 point "Mecca Document" which has emerged from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference which represents all 57 Islamic Nations. I have stressed this body's potential in the recent past.
The Mecca Document also has the approval of Sistani. He has also today had a significant meeting with the Sunni Vice-President of Iraq.
It would be quite something if it was International Islam who made the major move to give the Iraqi people the decent future they need.