NAJAF, Iraq — When the rebellious Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on the Syrian president to step down from power, many were taken by surprise. The prevailing belief is that Shiites all back the Syrian regime and support its rule, and that what is happening in Syria is a sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis.
On April 8, Sadr called on Assad to relinquish power, saying, “It would be fair for President Bashar al-Assad to resign and step down in love for Syria, to spare it the woes of war and terrorism. The rule would thus be handed over to influential popular parties capable of taking a stand against terrorism and preserving Syria’s sovereignty as soon as possible. This would constitute a historic, heroic decision before it’s too late.”