Apr 07 2008

Maliki And US Go After Sadr’s Thugs

Published by at 7:08 am under All General Discussions,Iraq,Sadr/Mahdi Army

The news out of Iraq is very promising. The Iraq government sees the al-Qaeda threat so diminished it has decided to finally clean out the militias and control Iraq, especially Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Militia. And Maliki has the backing of the various factions inside the government and the other Shia sects, effectively isolating Sadr and his thugs:

A freeze on al-Mahdi Army militia called by its leader, the hardline Shia cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, has also helped. But a week-long battle between his militias and government forces commanded personally by Nouri al-Maliki appeared to undermine the freeze, especially after Mr al-Maliki’s forces failed to crush the rogue militia fighters and had to agree a peace deal.

However, Mr al-Maliki later swore to fight on against what he terms criminals and appears to be rallying many Iraqi politicians and ordinary civilians tired of the endless violence perpetrated by unaccountable militias.

Parliament was also planning to isolate al-Mahdi Army by drafting a Bill banning parties that maintain militias from running for office. It was backed by a rare alliance of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties, although several of the parties involved run militias themselves.

Mr al-Maliki’s main backer in Government, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, has its own militia, the Badr Brigades, which has often fought the more powerful al-Mahdi Army. “We want the Sadrists to disband al-Mahdi Army. Just freezing it is no longer acceptable,” an adviser to Mr al-Maliki said. “The new election law will prevent any party that has weapons or runs a militia from contesting elections.”

People are tired of the senseless violence, and Arab Iraqis have no trust for Sadr’s Persian backers in Tehran. So the US and Iraqis forces are back at clearing operations, recently focusing on the slums of Sadr City in Baghdad:

About a thousand U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are moving house to house, street by street northward into Sadr City in some of the toughest urban fighting U.S. troops have seen in Iraq.

“In this area there are some real knuckleheads that just want to shoot at Americans,” Command Sgt.-Maj. Michael Boom said.

Special Groups is a term used by the U.S. military to suggest Iraqi militias that are trained and supplied by Iran. But who is actually directing the activities of those militias is “the million-dollar question,” Barnett said.

“We know some the names of the high-value targets in the area,” he said. “We think we know who is pulling the strings on some of these guys. And I guess what we don’t know for sure is there a direct link between that individual and [radically anti-American Shiite cleric] Moqtada al Sadr or is he is an agent working on the side just doing his own thing. That’s what we are asking.”

There are some indications the Iranians are actually on the ground directing the fighting, though I have yet to see any hard proof of it. But if they do find someone Sadr, now hold up in Iran, will be politically dead in Arab Iraq. More here on Maliki’s threat to Sadr to disband his militia’s or face political exile.

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