Not tossing rose petals quite yet

From the Miami Herlad:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Whispers of “revolution” are growing louder in Baghdad this month at teahouses, public protests and tribal meetings as Iraqis point to the past as an omen for the future.

Iraqis remember 1920 as one of the most glorious moments in modern history, one followed by nearly eight decades of tumult. The bloody rebellion against British rule that year is memorialized in schoolbooks, monuments and mass-produced tapestries that hang in living rooms.

Now, many say there’s an uncanny similarity with today: unpopular foreign occupiers, unelected governing bodies and unhappy residents eager for self-determination. The result could be another bloody uprising.

“We are now under occupation, and the best treatment for a wound is sometimes fire,” said Najah al Najafi, a Shiite cleric who joined thousands of marchers at a recent demonstration where construction workers, tribal leaders and religious scholars spoke of 1920.

The rebellion against the British marked the first time that Sunni and Shiite Muslims worked in solidarity, drawing power from tribesmen and city dwellers alike. Though Shiites, Sunnis and ethnic minorities are rivals in the new Iraq, many residents said the recent call for elections could draw disparate groups together. A smattering of Sunnis joined massive Shiite protests last week, demanding that U.S. administrators grant the wishes of the highest Shiite cleric for general elections.

— snip —

The historic rebellion has broad resonance. A band of anti-American insurgents has named itself the “1920 Revolution Brigades,” and Sistani himself, in a newspaper advertisement this month, asked Iraq’s influential tribes to remember that year.

— snip —

To many Iraqis, today’s U.S. occupation reads like an old play with modern characters: America as the new Britain, grenade-lobbing insurgents as the new opposition, and Ahmad Chalabi and other former exiles on the Governing Council as the new kings.

“We’ve sacrificed many martyrs and we would do it again,” said Sheik Khamis al Suhail, the secretary of the tribal council. “In 1920, we faced a struggle between Muslims and non-Muslims in Iraq. We are living under basically the same conditions now, and revolution is certainly possible.”

Iraqi Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the country’s population of 26 million, look to Sistani for leadership.

“If Sistani called for revolution, I would sacrifice my life for the good of my country,” said Hamdiya al Niemi, a 27-year-old street vendor whose father raised her on stories of the 1920 uprising. “My father was so proud talking about that time, how we kicked out the British and how we should never allow foreigners to rule our land.”