Trouble Brewing in Iraq?

Rick Moran
Anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose Mahdi Army militia was blamed for much of the violence in Iraq prior to a cease fire he called six months ago, has hinted that the cease fire will expire on Saturday and his militia will take to the streets:



Al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army is among the most powerful militias in Iraq, and the cease-fire he ordered last August has been credited with helping reduce violence around Iraq by 60 percent or more in the past six months.

Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, said that if the cleric failed to issue a statement by Saturday saying that the cease-fire was extended, "then that means the freeze is over." Al-Sadr's followers would be free to resume attacks.

On an Internet site representing al-Sadr, al-Obeidi said that al-Sadr "either will announce the extension or will stay silent and not announce anything. If stays silent, that means that the freeze is over." Al-Obeidi said that message "has been conveyed to all Mahdi Army members nationwide."

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a military spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that the cease-fire declared by al-Sadr's last August was good for the Iraqi people.

"Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's cease-fire has been helpful in reducing violence and has led to improved security in Iraq. We would welcome the extension of the cease-fire as a positive step," he said, using an honorific reserved for descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
If al-Sadr is stupid enough to once again engage the American military, there will be a lot of dead militia men - and probably civilians and US soldiers as well - that he will have to answer for.

The fact is, Mookie is in a bind of his own making. He has withdrawn his ministers and members of parliament from the government hoping that it would collapse and that he could move in and pick up the pieces. That didn't happen and, in fact, his move had the opposite effect. Al-Sadr was an obstacle to reconciliation and since his departure, the parliament has passed several necessary measures to get the healing process underway.

But Mookie still wants to be a player. The question he is asking himself can he be more influential in government or outside of it leading a hopeless insurgency against the US and Iraqi army. Much has changed in the 6 months since he initiated the face saving cease fire - knowing full well that he and his militia would have been the number one target of the surge if he had resisted. It remains to be seen whether al-Sadr feels he has no choice but confrontation given the fact that he has lost a considerable amount of influence as a result of his being out of government.

If al-Sadr does let loose his militia, it will be very bad news - especially in the south where fighting will almost certainly resume between the Mahdi and Badr militias. Since Mookie has been back and forth between Iran and Iraq over the last 6 months, he may have gotten instructions from his Iranian paymasters on what course he should follow.

Let's hope he acts smarter than he has in the past.
Anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose Mahdi Army militia was blamed for much of the violence in Iraq prior to a cease fire he called six months ago, has hinted that the cease fire will expire on Saturday and his militia will take to the streets:



Al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army is among the most powerful militias in Iraq, and the cease-fire he ordered last August has been credited with helping reduce violence around Iraq by 60 percent or more in the past six months.

Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, said that if the cleric failed to issue a statement by Saturday saying that the cease-fire was extended, "then that means the freeze is over." Al-Sadr's followers would be free to resume attacks.

On an Internet site representing al-Sadr, al-Obeidi said that al-Sadr "either will announce the extension or will stay silent and not announce anything. If stays silent, that means that the freeze is over." Al-Obeidi said that message "has been conveyed to all Mahdi Army members nationwide."

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a military spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that the cease-fire declared by al-Sadr's last August was good for the Iraqi people.

"Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's cease-fire has been helpful in reducing violence and has led to improved security in Iraq. We would welcome the extension of the cease-fire as a positive step," he said, using an honorific reserved for descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
If al-Sadr is stupid enough to once again engage the American military, there will be a lot of dead militia men - and probably civilians and US soldiers as well - that he will have to answer for.

The fact is, Mookie is in a bind of his own making. He has withdrawn his ministers and members of parliament from the government hoping that it would collapse and that he could move in and pick up the pieces. That didn't happen and, in fact, his move had the opposite effect. Al-Sadr was an obstacle to reconciliation and since his departure, the parliament has passed several necessary measures to get the healing process underway.

But Mookie still wants to be a player. The question he is asking himself can he be more influential in government or outside of it leading a hopeless insurgency against the US and Iraqi army. Much has changed in the 6 months since he initiated the face saving cease fire - knowing full well that he and his militia would have been the number one target of the surge if he had resisted. It remains to be seen whether al-Sadr feels he has no choice but confrontation given the fact that he has lost a considerable amount of influence as a result of his being out of government.

If al-Sadr does let loose his militia, it will be very bad news - especially in the south where fighting will almost certainly resume between the Mahdi and Badr militias. Since Mookie has been back and forth between Iran and Iraq over the last 6 months, he may have gotten instructions from his Iranian paymasters on what course he should follow.

Let's hope he acts smarter than he has in the past.