SIR – Your briefing on Iraq ("The slow road back", March 2nd) claimed that Tariq al-Hashemi is a deputy prime minister. He is not. He is one of two vice-presidents.
On a broader note, I would say that your report misunderstood Muqtada al-Sadr's actions. Specifically, you claim that Mr Sadr, along with other Shia politicians, has "even voiced sympathy with Sunni demands". However, the notion that the demonstrators have some legitimate demands is a line taken by virtually all of Iraq's politicians, and the central government has even set up a committee to address those grievances deemed legitimate (such as innocent people being unjustly held as detainees).
Mr Sadr's criticisms of Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, such as alleging that pro-Maliki demonstrators are paid government agents, amount to nothing more than populist opportunism that ultimately reflects his goal to emerge as leader of the Shia community in Iraq.
While he may say the protesters have legitimate grievances, Mr Sadr has forbidden his followers from participating in demonstrations with FSA flags. He has also alleged the existence of a foreign agenda behind the protests on account of the demand to end the de-Baathification process (a policy that no Sadrist or other Shia politician can afford to drop).
Rather than seeing his followers organise rallies reflecting common grievances with the Sunni protesters, we find that Sadrists now organise demonstrations, generally consisting of no more than a few hundred protesters, in various parts of the country for the causes of Bahrain and Palestine (the latter taking place recently in Wasit province).
The main genuine show of solidarity from the Shia side has actually come from some tribal sheikhs in the far south who feel that the central government neglects provincial concerns and have sympathy for the autonomy movement around Basra. A delegation from them came to Anbar to show solidarity with the protesters, but sadly only encountered hostility and rejection on allegations of being agents for Mr Maliki.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum