In the Shiite south, Islamists and secularists struggle over Iraq’s future

George Packer in the New Yorker:

Whether the terrible violence in Iraq will grow even worse depends, in part, on the character of the country’s first democratic government. Its new leaders are already suggesting that Islam, in a rigid or sectarian cast, will not dominate Iraqi politics. This will provoke a conflict within Shiism, for Iraq has extremists of every kind, and it will not be smooth or easy, but at least it will be something other than a death struggle among Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. Basra, where politics has begun to move fitfully toward a state that might someday be called normal, offers one model for a way out of the logic of civil war. “I will fight the terrorism of thoughts,” Majid al-Sary said, bringing his fist down on his desk. He was awaiting Youssef al-Emara, whose party had won the elections; they had made an appointment to continue their discussion that afternoon. “The elections showed the strength of religious ideas here. I will stay and fight those bad ideas. It’s changing from a fight against violence and explosions to a new category—thoughts.”

More here.