A battle between American forces and the so-called Mahdi Army of Moktada al-Sadr is being fought near Najaf (noted earlier here). Over the weekend, Najaf's clerics spoke out forcefully against one of those forces: al-Sadr's.
"It's not brave to take refuge in the house or the mosque or the markets and use women and children as human shields," said the Shiite imam Sadr al-Din al-Kubanchi to worshippers. Kubanchi said that Sadr's forces are "people who are trying to cheat you ? They want to drag you into battle to be destroyed."
According to The New York Times, the Najaf standoff had "turned into a showdown between the clerics of the city and Mr. Sadr." Times journalists wrote that the city's clerics "know that the hopes of a majority of Shiites of overcoming the long-running domination of Sunni Muslims rest with the success of the Americans' efforts to establish a largely democratic Iraq. They know, as well, that by advocating armed rebellion, Mr. Sadr's forces play into the hands of the violent Iraqi insurgents who seek to drive the United States out and reassert Sunni dominance."