Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sadr Orders Stop

It appears the Moqtada Sadr has told his militia to stop fighting. My reading: he's giving the government a chance to save face. Maliki can declare victory and leave. Sadr knows that he is probably going to win the coming elections, so he has a cleaner path to power. It was this prospect that likely prompted this offensive from the Iraqi government. It also appears that the attack hasn't gone so well. Juan Cole has the story.
Al-Zaman says that the police force in Basra suffered numerous mutinies and instances of insubordination, with policemen refusing to fire on the Mahdi Army. The government response was to undertake a widespread purge of disloyal elements.
The tableau above is tragicomic. The Iraqi security forces haven't even begun to take key Mahdi Army territory in Basra, and in fact have been rebuffed. The Mahdi Army claims to have captured heavy arms and even Iraqi soldiers from the government. The minister of defense admits that Baghdad was surprised at the level of resistance to the campaign. (After the spring of 2004? Why?) The British contingent of 4,000 troops out at the airport is not getting involved, raising questions as to what they are doing there.

Mean while, Iran also called for the fighting to end.
The Iranian foreign ministry called Saturday for an end to the fighting, saying that it strengthens the US hand in Iraq and may have the consequence of prolonging the US presence. Iran tends to back the Da'wa Party of Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki, and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, so it is significant that Tehran is criticizing this push by those two to destroy the Sadr Movement. I take them at their word. They are genuinely afraid that al-Maliki's poorly conceived campaign will backfire and that Bush will use it to insist on keeping troops in Iraq.

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