Muqtada al Sadr's political party held a rally in Baghdad to protest the U.S.-Iraqi agreement on the posture of U.S. forces in Iraq. Sadr, who has toed the Iranian line on the agreement, and coincidentally lives in Iran, says the agreement is invalid as it brings "shame and humiliation" on the Iraqi people because the "occupier" is not thrown out of the country.
The rally had the usual political theater - chants of death to America, flag-waving, and an effigy of President Bush that is beaten, abused, and then set on fire. But despite all of the reports on the unpopularity of the agreement among the Iraqi people, Sadr barely drew a crowd.
The Iraqi military put the number at "less than 10,000." McClatchy, which consistently overestimates the size of Sadr's protests, put the number at "tens of thousands."
Baghdad has a population estimated over seven million, and Sadr City, the supposed base of Sadr's power in Baghdad, has an estimated two million residents. Sadr's followers intentionally hold protests on Friday, the day most Muslims go to the mosque, so he had an abundant, pliable
audience. So the best Sadr can do on an issue that supposedly is opposed by most Iraqis is about 10,000 demonstrators? Perhaps opposition to the U.S.-Iraqi agreement doesn't run as deep as we are being told.
The Washington Post said the rally was attended by "thousands."
McClatchy has been over-inflating the importance of al Sadr for years. When the "battle of Basra ended" this past spring, McClatchy's Baghdad bureau chief, Leila Fadel, immediately declared "Maliki lost and Sadr had won." Within days, of course, a consensus emerged that Sadr's Mahdi army got thumped by the Iraqi army.