For more than two weeks, soldiers with Moqtada al-Sadr have been living inside Iraq’s holiest Shiite mosque. From there, they exchange fire with U.S. forces reluctant to conduct a direct attack out of respect for the shrine. Some see the stalemate as a test of Iraqi will. On one side the interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi wavers between encouraging a full-on attack and asking al Sadr to negotiate. One the other side the radical cleric himself, who has become a symbol for the disenfranchised. Still others see the standoff as one that is being masterminded by Iranians who would prefer Iraq to remain in chaos.
Adeed Dawisha, Professor of Political Science at Miami University in Ohio and former Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations
Hassan Mneimneh, Director of Documentation at the Iraq Memory Foundation, based in Baghdad
Scott Baldauf, reporter for The Christian Science Monitor