Sadr’s condemnation of the interim Prime Minster Iyad Allawi and his dismissal of the June “handover of power” as a farce is justified. Nor has Allawi’s heavy-handed, compliant rule gone down well with most of the Iraqi population - a recent poll showed his approval rating at just 2 per cent, tied with Saddam Hussein.

Nor can he be accused of being a tool for outside forces. Frequent accusations of ties with the regime in Iran have fallen flat, with both the US administration and the Iraqi interim government admitting there is no evidence of such a link.

But the adjective “radical” still sticks, defying the widespread popularity he has gained nationally and regionally. With the allegiance of the followers of his late father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, he can mobilise the Shia masses. But his armed resistance has drawn support from Sunnis and Shias throughout Iraq and the Middle East. Yet he has still sought diplomacy. He agreed to a truce in June and during the current fighting he has invited mediation from the Vatican. Contrast this with Allawi’s uncompromising stance that there can be “no negotiation” with militias.

Sadr is also prepared to disband his army and form a political party to contest next January’s elections. The fact that some Iraqi leaders are ignoring a decree passed by Allawi’s government and have invited Sadr into the political process reflects the recognition that, like him or not, he is too powerful and popular a figure to marginalise.

Calling Sadr “radical” is not only a misrepresentation of his policies, it is an insult to all those who oppose foreign occupation and domination, religious in-fighting and regional instability. One does not have to be Shia, Iraqi, Arab or “radical” to see that.~ Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi, Chairman of Arab Media Watch in The Independent