We discussed the future of Iraq in our global phone-in programme Talking Point.
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has vowed to defeat militiamen who refused to disarm, saying they were "making things more difficult in Iraq".
His pledge came after deadly clashes between US troops and Shia militants in a Baghdad suburb and an attack on an oil pipeline in southern Iraq.
Mr Allawi's promise follows the end of a three-week standoff between fighters loyal to the radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr and US-led forces in the city of Najaf.
On Saturday, Sadr loyalists had clashed with US forces in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, leaving at least seven people dead.
The agreement brokered by Shia religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to end the Najaf crisis had made no mention of the Shia militants' stronghold in Sadr City, or other areas they hold elsewhere in Iraq.
Will the peace last? Has the prolonged violence in Iraq threatened the country's transition to democracy? What should the new national assembly do now to restore calm and security?
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Many have stated this war is simply about keeping the flow of oil coming to America. Please let me know where I can find this oil in the US. Gas is the highest it has ever been so it certainly is not making its way to the pumps. Let's get real folks, this war may be a lot of things but it is not about Oil. If you persist in your conviction, then please provide the proof. I, as well as many others, are tired of this rhetoric.
Albert, San Jose, CA
Peace is possible with US help. But there will never be peace in Iraq if Americans leave too soon. Iraq is an artificial incongruous British creation and its chances of surviving as one country are already small.
Mirek Kondracki, American in Poland
How can peace be plausible in Iraq when it has been invaded for its natural resources (OIL) and continues to be occupied by foreign powers? The UN should be allowed to do what it was created for. To that end an honourable peace can be accepted.
Edw, NY, USA
To many of the critical posters saying there is no Democracy: You are right. Democracy requires enough peace and security for people to exercise their rights. That requires appointing someone to start the process. The people of Iraq must get involved. Don't let the Iraqis teachers, policemen and appointed leaders who have died so far die for nothing. You cannot complain that Democracy has not been created for you. The people have to do it.
No it will not work. This is only the beginning of a long sustained fight which will take place in Najaf and will spread to the rest of Shia towns until the Shia get what they want which is to rule Iraq their own way without outside interference or occupation such as Allawi's government which is seen as a puppet of the Americans.
S. R. Thomas, Manila, Philippines
There will be no peace in Iraq for a very long time, especially if the Allied forces stay. Why can't we in the west face up to the fact that other nations might have a different outlook on life? Iraq was and still is a forced country and many of its different groups of people will lose out as the larger factions inevitably gain the greatest amount of power.
Thomas Morley, Bury St Edmunds, England
Peace will only be possible if the Iraqi people are left to determine the course of their own country. The problem is that the majority of Iraqis favour a theocracy, possibly in the form of an Islamic state, and that's not going down too well with the US occupiers, who seem bent on forcing a western style democracy on Iraq. Democracy cannot be forced on a people down the barrel of a gun and there will only be peace if the US stops interfering and mind its own business. Sadly, I just don't think it's capable of this.
Anonymous, Nottingham, UK
Political legitimacy is not a gift of the occupying power, it is an end product of popular support. If a substantial proportion of the Iraqi people choose to support Sadr then he has political legitimacy, if they don't, then he doesn't. It's as simple as that. As for whether peace is possible - that depends on how the occupying forces respond to the body of Iraqi opinion that Sadr represents and also on how substantial that body really is.
There should be no compromise or appeasement with regard to Sadr. If he wants a role in the government, then he should have waited for the election and participate in a democratic process just like anybody else. Unfortunately he is more interested in establishing a theocratic regime rather than a democratic one.
James, NY, USA
Violence and insurrection will continue in Iraq until the US leaves and the so-called interim government is disbanded and the Iraqis decide themselves how and what they want a new system of government to be. This is not a classroom; it is a 'country' manufactured by the colonial powers and now dictated to by another imperialist power. Would any right thinking person trust a 'conference' arranged by an invading army? I think the UN can help but not when the UN Security Council includes the culprit nation, the US, which caused the mess to begin with. And the British don't have very clean hands either!
Reva Rubenstein, Washington, DC, US
Giving Moqtada al-Sadr political legitimacy in order to end the violence would be the equivalent of paying ransom.
Licciardi, Crete, Greece
Iraq must be allowed to move as strongly as possible toward elections and peace. My view is:
1. Dr Allawi should be allowed to go forward with his amnesty plan.
2. Mr Sadr and his Mehdi Army should be granted amnesty as of a certain date. Anyone fighting after that date would not be allowed back under the amnesty.
3. Both sides, the US troops and the Mehdi army should leave Najaf and its environs, to let the residents begin to recover. A contingent of the Iraqi Police Force should remain.
4. Rationale: The US wants the Iraqi people to forgive the prisoner abuse, the considerable collateral damage done since the war, and the many Iraqis killed in the invasion.
The US also wants to see Dr Allawi succeed in the preparations for elections next January. Conceding to Dr Allawi the right to grant amnesty would give him a boost up in the sight of his people and say to them that Dr Allawi can obtain agreements with the Coalition. Mr Sadr needs an opportunity to further his education so that he may play an important role in the governing of Iraq. Mr Sistani and others might be able to facilitate this. He is an important factor in assuring a cohesive movement of the Iraqi people toward a government suitable to all of their people.
Lou Roberts, Lubbock, Texas, USA
Ending the illegal occupation is the only solution. Moqtada Sadr is not a foreigner; he is an Iraqi fighting an illegal occupation. The western press can call him a radical cleric, but in the eyes of an ordinary Iraqi he is standing up to an oppressor.
Abdul K, London
When will people realise that this man cannot be reasoned with? Sadr depends on confusion and chaos to operate. If peace were to prevail, his hypocrisy would be revealed. He would rather hide behind the haloed halls of places of worship, depending upon others to do his work for him, and all the while preaching about martyrdom. Where was he when Saddam was oppressing his people? It is ironic that it is because of the democracy he so much opposes that he has managed to last so long.
Emmanuel Quartey, Tema, Ghana
The only thing the peace mission will achieve is once again proving that attempts at diplomacy with religious zealots will only prolong the strife and kill more innocent people. But few people ever really learn this lesson. Can anyone give an example of how negotiating with religious fanatics has ever succeeded?
Michael S Nowak, Pittsburgh, USA
Iraq needs to be recognized as a sovereign country with its own democracy without the interference of foreign meddling. Sistani needs to negotiate/settle matters with Moqtada Sadr and keep the US out of Iraq - especially the holy sites!
Esra Karatash Alpay, Istanbul, Turkey
It is my hope and prayer that Ayah Allah Ali al-Sistani will convince Sadr to end his campaign of violence and lead his followers to peaceful participation in the rebuilding of Iraq. Iraq's holy shrines and mosques cannot be occupied by armed men bent upon violence, whatever their cause. Respect for places of worship and the graves of the faithful must be observed by all. Islam is a religion of peace.
There is honour and great bravery in peaceful acts. Muslims know this, and yet too many pick up weapons and make acts of war and violence and chaos. This is not the path to self-determination and freedom from foreign occupation for Iraq. The people of the nations with armed forces in Iraq want their soldiers to return home. They hold in highest esteem those with the courage to assemble unarmed to join in peaceful demonstration for their rights.
When the vast majority of Iraqis condemn all violence by all people within their country, when they defiantly take up the peaceful tasks of rebuilding their nation, when they peaceably assemble to demand an end to occupation, the world must listen, the people of other nations will join their call and demand the withdrawal of foreign armies, and Iraqis will have their nation and their freedom.
Knox, Atlanta, GA, USA
Ayatollah Ali Sistani is the true leader of Iraq in terms of number of followers. Many world leaders would envy the type of following he commands, not only in Iraq but globally. For those invaders who are hell bent on implementing democracy in Iraq, let Ayatollah Ali Sistani take centre stage and act as he so desires.
It is ironic that yesterday the world celebrated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Paris from foreign occupation. We all applauded the French resistance as brave freedom fighters. These people were also called terrorists by the Nazis. History is now repeating itself. When will the West realise that occupation is a cancer. The US must learn lessons from the French resistance. Moqtada and his followers are the new resistance.
Dr Khan, Aberdeen
We need to know who is behind the attacks. The insurgents normally use mortar weapons, but no motor weapon kills 25 people. Who is behind the attacks? Only when we find out we can help get rid of these people so Iraq can become a true democracy for the people of Iraq.
Ayatollah Sistani seems to be a good and great man who is perhaps the best hope for Iraq to become what all Iraqis want it to be. His wisdom was displayed when he asked all Iraqis to start all conversations with the Coalition by saying, "Thank you for removing Saddam" and end them with "When did you plan to leave?" Such an approach shows he knows exactly how to deal with the Coalition and their home countries. Unlike Sadr, who seems to think threatening and attacking us will get him somewhere other than the grave (assuming he gathers the courage to stop hiding in a place we cannot go).
A Sweeting, Leicester, UK
The failure of the coalition to deal swiftly, effectively, and decisively with threats in places like Najaf and Fullaja to the government's authority puts the prospects for a free and independent Iraq at grave risk. It shows that in a crisis, there is no firm resolve, no strong will to persevere. It encourages anyone who wants to see a period of anarchy followed by another dictatorship.
Of course, the violence is threatening Iraq's transition to democracy. There are many Iraqis who see the opportunity to do something with their country. They want to seize the opportunity before it disappears. The more ignorant ones are stuck on the idea of "occupiers" on their land. Puppets or not, the new government is trying to do something productive for the country. Occupiers or not, the US is pouring millions into rebuilding Iraq. Freedom, anyone?? It's there for the taking.
Andrea, NY, USA
The political process is the only way to deal with this situation. Every person who can, should be helping to end this crisis. And the situation could definitely get out of control. With their vastly superior military hardware, the American forces could certainly overcome the Iraqi fighters. But it will not be a victory. The fallout will be felt by everyone in the world, for years.
Jackie, Hubbards, Canada
Why are the Americans afraid of talking with Sadr? His demands are simple. Get the army out of Najaf, release all prisoners and let the clerics build and run Najaf. The political situation is not a fair playing ground. Sadr has to be given the same support as the Kurds and other political players.
Thomas C. Kantha, Japan
Democracy in Iraq will fail, it is only a matter of time. Politicians think that democracy is a universal good which can be bestowed upon any people at any time to make them "better". However, it requires several key factors for success. Two of these factors are money and contentment, neither of which are abundant in Iraq. The majority vote will eventually lead Iraq down the path of Iran, and then we will have two medium sized nations next to each other pursuing nuclear weapons in order to "cleanse the earth" of western civilization. Nothing will change until these radicals either have their opinions altered or are killed.
Josh, Allentown, USA
Najaf, Falluja, Baquba, Ramadi, Samarrah and Sadr city will live on in legend as cities of heroes who refused to surrender their dignity, pride and honour to a brutal self interested colonial occupation. Faced with the mightiest military powers in the world parked right on their doorstep and subjected to relentless bombings, shellings and assaults from some of the most lethal conventional weapons yet devised by man, these lions have chosen to stand up and be counted when the whole world expected them to roll over and die.
By their defiance and determination they stand between the billions of people of the poor world and direct, open imperialist domination. They have made it clear that there would be a price to be paid for daylight robbery. That while people of the third world might be poor, they would defend their dignity, even at the cost of their lives. That missiles, bombs and tanks will not on their own accord crush legitimate resistance to the latest attempt by Wall Street and the City of London to carve up the world's resources and rob the third world of their natural wealth.
Kola, Dunstable UK
Sadr and his army are nothing but a bunch of cowards - holed up in a mosque shooting at people, who if they shoot back and damage the mosque, will face an international uproar. Come out and fight like a man, Sadr!
To Mike from the USA: Democracy achieved by gun and bayonet is not democracy. Unfortunately, no-one seems to have pointed this out to your government.
Glenn Barker, Victoria, Canada
Democracy should not and can not be derailed by violence. People tend to forget how America became a democracy through over 200 years of war and political strife. We had our share of internal conflict in America as evidenced by Shay's Rebellion, The Whisky Rebellion, the Civil War, the work strikes of the 1930's, the Civil Rights movement, etc. Democracy can not be attained through the pen and paper. It has to be achieved through the gun and bayonet.
Democracy flows from sovereignty and sovereignty rests with the people. The people of Iraq are and will always be sovereign, no matter who rules them. If they rise up in arms against their rulers then they are showing the simplest and purest form of democracy.
Azhar Abidi, Melbourne, Australia
The Geneva convention prohibits armed combatants from using religious structures as staging points for attacks or caching weapons. I don't hear anyone condemning Sadr. If any other group used a mosque, temple, or church in this manner, the world would be in an uproar.
I believe Sadr's [initial] entry into the political process would be beneficial to all, because it would help curb the immediate violence. However, he will most likely not do this under the auspice of the IIG. The situation in Najaf can get extremely out of control if Iraqi and/or US forces storm the Imam Ali Shrine due to the fact that the shrine is such a revered place throughout all of Shia Islam. The situation must be handled with careful diplomacy to reach a solution avoiding violence and widespread upheaval.
Brad, Washington DC, USA
It's sad that the crisis in Najaf has not been resolved to date. It looks like the parties involved are using the wrong means of conflict resolution. Although the United States and the UK messed up big time, I think its time the UN, Arab League, and the European Union took an interest in this matter. I believe that if all the warring parties and the other world players I have mentioned above sat down together, then the crisis could be peacefully resolved. Can the situation in Najaf get out of control? Right now it is out of control. It is out of control for as long as the people there spend sleepless nights due to the continued fighting. The continued fighting is also affecting the whole country. It is also affecting the world both politically and economically. We are better off with peace in Najaf and Iraq.
Wezi Kaira, Lusaka ,Zambia
I am amazed by people's comments on this site. People all over the globe are blaming this situation on the Americans as usual, without knowing anything about the situation. If you read comments from residents of Najaf on the site, they say Sadr and his followers are the problem, not the Americans. The ignorance of some people is staggering. Sadr is no different from Saddam (executions etc). The sooner the American and Iraqi forces capture or kill Sadr, the better!
Michael, Isle of Wight, UK
What is happening in Iraq is nothing but a pure madness. What a waste of resources and unnecessary human losses. What would have happened if Saddam had bombed to contain an uprising in Najaf? Where are the UN and International Human Rights Organisations?
The only long term solution for peace in Iraq is a political process. Moqtada Sadr represents the worst form of Islamic authority - alleged divine right backed up by bully-boy gun tactics with thugs on the streets. Every effort should be made to involve him democratically so that democracy rather than religion rules the streets. If he declines to take part he should be crushed.
Recognize first that the Western definition of terrorist is out of alignment with how the fighters in Najaf see themselves. They are defenders of Islam and patriots of Iraq fighting an occupying force. Coupled with the belief that death in defence of Islam will bring eternal life in paradise, these fighters have a huge incentive to continue the battle at some level. American military superiority will not win this war. Moqtada is not likely to endorse a political process that claims to be democratic but says that the process will not allow the Shia majority to take power even in open and democratic elections. The answer lies in allowing Iraq to decide by poll or gun how it will run itself and stop trying to create a Western style of life in a non-Western culture and way of life.
Nigel Darwent, Trinidad and Tobago
From BBCArabic.com: The main factor behind the escalation of events in Najaf is the muteness of Ayatollah Sistani. If he had spoken positively - or even negatively - the problem could have been resolved, because he has many deluded followers.
Essam Al Hussainy, Baghdad, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: Moqtada Sadr capitalised on his father's reputation and deluded his followers, who are mostly poor and uneducated. He is himself manipulated by a group of extremist clerics to make him serve their own political ambitions. This is happening at a time when we all strive for a stable life and want to rebuild what Saddam Hussein has destroyed.
Bassem, Iraqi in Oman
From BBCArabic.com: If Moqtada Sadr was a real nationalist, he would have turned his father's followers to a loyal electorate. But his anarchic tendencies are reminiscent of Saddam's infamous reign of terror, which will prevent him from taking on any political position in the future. We have to work together to re-educate Moqtada's followers in order to join forces for the benefit of our country.
Aseel, Najaf, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com:The current crisis in Najaf will have a dramatic effect on the democratic process in Iraq. Moqtada's men turned to dangerous outlaws when the government tried to hold them back. The case would have been entirely different if the confrontation was with any of the well-established political parties in Iraq. These parties that have long suffered from Saddam's tyranny would never resort to violence. They are people of principles and know how to maintain a sensible political dialogue, reflecting a clear ideology. This is why we have to eliminate the likes of Moqtada first before starting any democratic process in Iraq.
Ali Al-Dabbagh, Najaf, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: I appeal for the Mehdi Army to walk out of the Holy Shrine and for Moqtada to surrender to the Iraqi authorities and apologise to the people of Najaf for all the destruction he caused.
Ahmed, Najaf, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: The events in Najaf have proved without any doubt that the Iraqi government is an extension of the occupation and showed that it readiness to sacrifice its very own people if necessary. This whole issue has compromised the government in the eyes of Iraqis because of its blatant impotence in the Najaf crisis. Najaf events will not compromise the so-called democratic process in Iraq, simply because such process doesn't exist to start with.
Tark Ali, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: These actions are intended to divert the public's attention from what is going on in the rest of Iraq.
Ahmad Hassan Al Banna, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: Events in Karbala have proved that democracy and armed militias don't go hand in hand. How can democratic elections be held in Najaf under Moqtada and his men? All militias should disbanded and incorporated in one National Army, including the Kurdish Peshmergas.
Haydar Al Karbala'i, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: I have become convinced more and more that oil has everything to do with the war in Iraq.
Nasser Kabbara, Worcester, UK
From BBCArabic.com: The people of Najaf are far more afraid of Moqtada's men than of American attacks. Most of them want to see his army leave as soon as possible. No one here dares criticising him they fear his fierce reprisals.
Bassem Al Najafi, Iraq
Even now Bush and Blair have any common sense they must pull the occupying forces out of Iraq. They have already created a mess and will find it more difficult to get out their heads the more they delay.
Sheikh Mohammed Afzal, Kuwait
This Moqtada Sadr is an opportunist mad Mullah. He is also a coward, who takes up arms and takes refuge in a holy place so that they can shoot at others, who should not return fire for fear of inflaming religious sensitivities. Would he have dared defend himself against, let alone challenge, Saddam's regime? Of course not. The interim government forces should surround him for as long as it takes until they surrender unconditionally to the rule of law. He is a cancerous growth on the body politic of the new Iraq. The only permanent cure is his surgical removal ASAP.
Muhamad Tawfiq Ali, Hornchurch, Essex, UK
The crisis in Najaf, to me, shows that the Iraqi government and the coalition did not take the necessary steps to prepare the ground for a stand against this opportunist, Mr Sadr. It is strange that the reasonable voices in the Shiite majority remain silent, although Mr Sadr is clearly a threat to them too. Isolating Mr Sadr and his thugs and negotiating a conviction of Shiite leaders of this person, seem to me the only way to attack this problem in a successful way.
Pieter Peremans, Antwerp, Belgium
What democracy? Democracy by definition is government by the people, for the people. Consequently, the majority of Iraqis do not want US presence or domination over their country. Thus, in pure democratic election, Iraqis are more likely to vote for politics with less ties with US. However, US will never allow any US hostile politics to rise in power. Democracy American-style in less industrialized countries has always been about supporting American-friendly dictators. The Iraq case will not differ from this.
Sue, Maryland, US
I believe the situation in Najaf can be achieved easily if the occupied forces withdraw from the city, but as long as they are in Najaf the matter will be out of hand.
Mohamed Isak, Mogadishu, Somalia
As an Iranian I wonder why so many westerners show an attitude so different towards the US than those who come from Iraq. Could it be that their politics get in the way of seeing what is happening? Let's get the Iranian zealots and their pawns out of Iraq so there can be peace. That is the problem today, not the US.
Jobin Samirakermani, Los Angeles
Democracy is earned through struggle. The violent reactionaries of yesterday often become the democratic heroes of tomorrow. Instead of fanning the flames we should be diffusing this aggression through dialogue.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK
Try listening to what the people of Najaf and the people of Iraq are saying for a start, instead of pompous preachers from rich countries! Most Najafi people and Iraqis generally want democracy and peace and realise the only way to achieve it is through the interim government backed by the coalition.
Charles, London, UK
Peace could be achieved in Najaf and the whole of Iraq only if the Americans leave. The went to an unjustified war through the back door and without the authority of the UN. They are seen as looters of Iraqi resources and not liberators.
Faustin Luambano, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The divide between the west and east is so wide, with lies and more lies and half truths by both media. This remains an illegal war with occupiers living in a world of lies. Nothing good will ever come out until Americans leave.
Let's face it. Neither the official Iraqi government or Sadr's army are the democratic government of Iraq, so neither of them has any more credibility than the other. Still, if Sadr gains enough popularity, he is gaining it with the actual people of Iraq. He is doing what large numbers of Iraqis want. And if Sadr becomes a dictator in Iraq, he is no worse than Bush, or any of the 42 Americans presidents. Democracy has never come into it.
So, we can bring peace to Najaf by doing our part and pulling our troops out of Iraq and withdrawing our diplomatic personnel from the United States. The national assembly of Iraq should force Coalition troops out and immediately allow the towns and villages to organise along their own lines, democratically - with the will of the people and not politicians.
Jack, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England
It is so sad to see how many people in the western are brainwashed by the American administration and media. The war is all about oil and the Americans will continue to kill and destroy anyone in Iraq to secure the flow. They don't care for non-Americans life at all.
Peace and democracy in Iraq won't be a thing of tomorrow, violence and uncertainty is a common thing after any war, it's a transitional period, where people learn to change from how they were governed and eventually peace and democracy will surely come and all Iraqi's will gain from it including those that are opposing the future.
Nosa Edokpayi, London, UK
What democracy? Does any one think that US wants democracy in Iraq. They want puppet regime to secure control of the oil.
Anna Mallora, Madrid, Spain
The only thing that will bring peace in Iraq is the full withdrawal of US forces and their Allies.
Zaheed Hafiz, Bangladesh
Moqtada Sadr and his band of mercenaries are simply are simply too ignorant or too blinded by hatred to see the opportunity that has been placed at their feet. While the long-term consequences of the coalition's intervention in Iraq are obviously subject to a separate debate, it is clear that Sadr is already reaping the benefits of a Saddam-free society. Does anyone believe for a minute that Saddam would have allowed this stand-off to go on for two weeks while the two sides negotiated a solution? If they can't see the opportunity their country has within its grasp, perhaps they deserved Saddam and his brand of justice after all.
Paige, Laguna Niguel, California, USA
Iraq is infinitely better off and now has a future as opposed to the Saddam era of terror and oppression. This violence will not stop progress. As much as the Europeans would like to see the US falter and fail we will not give up until this mission is accomplished. We support the Iraqi people and their attempts to create a stable and peaceful society.
Brandon, Cincinnati, Ohio
Security has given place to danger in Iraq. Prosperity to misery and calamity, while affliction and distress have succeeded well being. Over the length and breadth of Iraq, non-Iraqis are fighting for no cause, with a view of fighting a holy war and killing Iraqis. America should eliminate those who are bad in Iraq and bring long lasting peace.
Godfred Kenney, Ghana
Yesterday it was Saddam, today it is Sadr, tomorrow someone else... When you impose democracy, it is still dictatorship. Iraq is nothing but a failure of world politics.
Sangam Dhruva, USA
I vehemently disagree with people that are calling on the coalition forces to leave Iraq. To me, they are not well informed. As the situation is now, Iraq government on its own cannot tackle these insurgents alone. They need the help and support of the Americans more than ever. If Sadr thinks that he is popular, then let him opt for democracy and renounce violence. Simple arithmetic.
Lawal J, Lagos
It is ironical that the foreign army are called liberators and the Iraqi people like Sadr who are fighting foreigners in their own cities and country are called militia. I fail to understand who is who.
Sunil Sharma, Delhi, India
The problem with Sadr is that of misplaced priority. Where was he and his militants when Saddam held sway and his father was killed? Where was he when all those vicious atrocities were committed against his people by Saddam? If he is so bold as he is now laying claim to and is seeking martyrdom, then was the best time to have done that. American offence is simple: Why should they liberate an oppressed nation?
Yisa A, Aba, Nigeria
First you ban Sadr from taking part in the political process, then when he decides to take up arms to fight for his right the interim government says "the olive branch is still extended". What a paradox! I think the meaning of democracy needs to be redefined by this puppet government. Bravo to Sadr and the Mehdi army.
Iraq has become a really bad movie. The politicians and citizens are acting out the drama. Meantime the faceless producers in the background are playing all sides against each other. After all, where there's chaos there's profit! Tragic and sad that people can be so easily led, be so greedy, so cruel.
Nigel Richards, Prague, Czech Republic
Please get the UN back, it's mad what's happening here.
Maher Ziad, Baghdad, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: I agree with anyone who supports taking very harsh measures against Moqtada and his henchmen. Since the liberation of Iraq, the Coalition forces didn't come near the shrines because they know very well that these are holy sites. They are doing so today because they have been asked by the legitimate government of Iraq to oust the army of bandits that have overtaken the Shrines. The Coalition forces have thus no intentions of harming the Sacred Haydari Shrines. God bless the new Iraqi government.
Layth al Rumayhi, Najaf, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: What Moqtada is doing is really brave. All the people of Najaf are united behind him. What has been said about the Mehdi Army is pure propaganda. The Americans have brainwashed the minds of the gullible people of Najaf. I ask the real patriots of our great nation to stand by Moqtada.
Salah Zayer, Najaf, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: Dr Allawi's government has overblown the status of Moqtada. He was manipulated by people from outside Iraq and undercover Baathists. I am part of an eminent body of clerics from Najaf, and we sincerely wish to see him and his militia leave, as much as we wished Saddam and his regime to fall. The internet became the only means of expression here. Anyone who criticises Moqtada in public risk arbitrary execution. Even journalists cannot convey the real image because they also fear for their lives.
Zwein, Najaf, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: I praise all the heroes from the Mehdi army, and above all Moqtada. I appeal to all those who do not live in Iraq (including Iraqis) to not give their opinion on the current situation in Najaf because they obtain their information from Arab satellite channels, whereas Iraqis are first hand eyewitnesses.
Abu Yussuf, Sadr City, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: The Iraqi government and their allies want to marginalise the Shias and limit their influence by purging the outspoken voices among them, like Moqtada Sadr. If Iyad Allawi succeeds in purging all his opponents, he will cause as much mayhem as Saddam Hussein did.
Amjad Baghdadi, Baghdad, Iraq
From BBCArabic.com: I ask those who don't want coalition forces to enter the Holy Shrines, what do they expect from them? To wait outside and ask Moqtada and his men to leave?
Wael Al Waily
Standing between us and an understanding of the mind of Moqtada al-Sadr is a deep ignorance of culture and language, which has been compounded by the USA's insistence on placing a suave, and highly Westernised administration between themselves and the Iraqi people. These people may look very pretty to American sensibilities, but they are profoundly distrusted by the vast majority of Iraqis - and for good reason. This total rejection of the concept of putting one's self into the position of your adversary, and trying to understand why he views you the way he does, is at the root of just about every conflict in which America has been engaged since WWII.
Richard, Toronto Canada
Iraqi violence does not threaten democracy. In fact, I don't know of any democracy that was formed without violence. The US is the only threat to democracy in Iraq because they will not accept the free will of the Iraqi people. Any freely elected regime in Iraq will probably not side so closely with the US. The US knows this and instead, they choose the leaders in Iraq that are puppets of US policy and call it democracy. They have been doing this for over 50 years in the middle east. I see things haven't changed.
Baz, London, US expat
I am very surprised at some of the responses. The violence in Najaf is solely due to the repeated refusal of Moqtada Al Sadr to join the ongoing process of rebuilding Iraq. Even members of his own family decry his constant calls to violence. The quickest way to have European troops to go home is to begin behaving peacefully. Al Sadr doesn't care about Iraq or its people. He is trying to build a power base for himself.
For those who post about how much of a "sham" building a democracy in Iraq is, I want you to remember that the Allied forces occupied Germany and Japan for nearly half a decade after WWII, and yet these countries are thriving democracies. First the violence must be put down by force, and then democracy can be built. The first "administrations" of Germany and Japan were, of course, chosen by the Allies.
Frank Vuittonet, Baghdad, Iraq
The latest assault against resistance fighters in Najaf and elsewhere in Iraq shows up US/UK ambitions in the region for what they are. Old fashioned imperialism i.e. the belief that might gives you the right to steal resources at the point of a gun. The heroism of those holding out in Najaf is obvious. The cowardice of a superpower bombing poorly armed fighters from a great distance is equally obvious to reasonable and informed people the world over.
Joe Downes, Dublin, Ireland
So opponents of the government face charges or have had allegations made against them (including Allawi)? No one trusts the Iraqi judicial system because it was set up by the US and is seen as a tool of the government?
If the country's own system is suspect and accusations are being laid against both sides it appears clear that an independent body must step in to investigate. Come on Allawi, let the UN, or a similar multinational group, take over the cases and maybe we will see an impartial process.
Nigel, South Wales
The path to democracy is never smooth. You only have to look at the Worlds two greatest democracies, the USA and UK and the turmoil they went through in their history. The path may be hard but it is worth taking the journey. Hang on in Iraq, Light is at the end of the tunnel of Darkness.
John Karran, Merseyside, UK
Can't the world see Mr. Iyad Allawi, a former Baathist, looks ever more like Saddam? The democracy that the US has promised seems to get further every day as their appointed ruler has reinstated the death penalty, has shot dead "traitors", is liquidating possible political challengers by political trials (see the Chalabi case) or by military means as with Sadr. It is sad to see that the US is also back to its old ways, backing a third world tyrant in the hopeless effort of both regaining their lost international credibility and retaining the natural wealth of a war torn country. Unfortunately, it is always the innocent people that are paying the bill for the folly of those in, or aspiring to, power. Unfortunately, it looks to me like only the beginning of another black storm for Iraq.
Oscar Lima, Athens, Greece
The other day, Sadr agreed to disarm his militia, then he later refused, now he will leave the shrine, but will not disarm his militia. Does anything ever comes out of Sadr's mouth that's not contradictory? How can anyone takes his words seriously.
Sadr is hiding behind an Islamic shrine in order to protect himself. The US have wrapped themselves in the flag of democracy. No-one to me seems to have any rights to the positions they have taken up. Sadr, though, is the probable future of Iraq... The CIA, the Bush Administration and the Blair Government have always had a blind idea that an invasion spawns an ideal of democracy they want. Like it or not, Sadr or someone very much like him will lead Iraq, not some Westernised guy with a nice majority and acceptable opposition party to keep him in check.
Marc, Singapore ex UK
As one commentator put it years ago "democracy is like a loaf of bread. No matter how hungry you are you can only eat it one slice at a time".
More and more African statesmen have gone on record as saying that there have to be different political systems, based on nations' different traditions and cultures. There is some merit in that. In any event what is crucial in Iraq today is security, not 'democracy'. Besides, western style democracy has never been a criteria for friendship with Sadr's "enemy", the USA, as Saudi Arabia, and even Saddam's Iraq a few years ago, prove.
Robert Alu, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
It is very difficult to achieve peace in the foreseeable future as the US and UK attacked Iraq defying the world opinion, ignoring each and every lesson of history and rejecting the common sense in greed of oil by converting the local population into pawns. Unfortunately their actions have extremely negative consequences, which are borne, in the first instance by the Iraqis. The damage can be reduced slightly if the occupation forces leave, but that does not seem probable as all the major parties in both US and UK support this war. The only thing which can change the ground reality in Iraq today is action of the people in the US and UK who can force their governments to act differently.
Saif Khan, Moscow, Russia
What move to democracy? With 20 of the assembly members being chosen by the US (from the former Governing Council) and many more, including the 'prime minister', being backed by the US the assembly has nothing to do with democracy, but more to do with the US maintaining control of Iraq's destiny. Sadr isn't the only Iraqi to think this is a sham and encircling him with tanks to try and force their views upon Iraqis is yet more evidence that the US thinks it can use military muscle to enforce its definition of democracy. It won't work.
John Farmer, Henley-on-Thames, UK
Sadr has spent his whole life in Iraq (unlike Allawi), and his father was gunned down by Saddam. He is popular with the Shiite lower classes - you know, the people we were supposed to liberate. His political strength exposes as a lie that this occupation is about anything more than the theft of a nations resources.
Ben, Oakland USA
These bandits, led by the power hungry Moqtada al Sadr, have two options. Either put down their arms and join the process of forming a new government in Iraq, or die. I personally think, the more of them are "martyred" the better. We have suffered by the hands of similar animals for 25 years here in Iran. What is their agenda? They have none - and when it comes to governing and administering, they resort to some outdated and mad rules and laws. Just because a man has a turban and claims to be a man of God, we should follow him? Or take notice of him? Iraq's interim government must be resolute and crush these criminals.
Mohammmad Ali, Iran
For rule of law, never mind democracy, the government of any country has to have a monopoly of armed force in that country. That's why Allawi has to crush the insurgents in Najaf now.
I am amazed at the number of misinformed comments on this page regarding Sadr, saying he refuses to take part in the political process. As pointed out by David Russell of Glasgow: he is banned from taking part by the occupying forces. Is that what you call democracy? Because I don't.
John Farmer, Henley-on-Thames, UK
Before we allow too much propaganda here, lets get one thing straight. Iraq in general now has reliable electricity and it has dozens of internet cafes. Comments by Iraqis on here are therefore not solely from a privileged minority. We need to look at history to get this in perspective. It was not the US or the UK who invaded Iran, invaded Kuwait, massacred the Kurds, destroyed the environment of the Marsh Arabs and killed 100s of thousands of its own citizens. Iraqi society has been poisoned by decades of violence and will take time to recover.
Tony, London, UK
I believe the strategy the Iraqi government is following is the right one. A chance for Mr Sadr and his Mehdi army to back down while maintaining military pressure. If Mr Sadr believes he has real support then why not use the democratic processes? Is the reason he doesn't because his views are held by a minority? If this is the case then the American forces must support the Iraqi government in whatever action is required to bring peace and stability to Iraq.
Derek Toyne, York
Sadr seeks to establish a theocratic, Islamic republic. He hasn't understood yet that democracy and theocracy are incompatible. It's like watching a replay of the middle ages.
This is exactly the sort of thing George Bush should have expected but ignored when he chose war. He should have read history. Once you start a war, history chooses its own course. This war is out of control and will expand in ways beyond the wildest dreams of Bush and his minions
David Wyatt, Columbus, Ohio, USA
What political process? What democracy? Is it political process to decide how the power is divided by dictum rather than open elections because there is a fear that the majority group might win and impose a form of government that is not acceptable to the Americans? Is it democratic to say either do it our way or we will get our American friends to bomb you. Sadr is unlikely to want to legitimise a political process that is intended to keep him out of power.
Nigel Darwent, Trinidad and Tobago