Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What's Going On In Iraq? (Pt. II)

I gave my take on the latest goings-on in Iraq last week... in short a political battle between Prime Minister al-Maliki and the nationalist Shiite cleric al-Sadr, being fought on the streets of Basra and elsewhere in a bloody battle. Here's how things stand after the weekend. From the NY Times-
The Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr on Sunday called for his followers to stop fighting in Basra and in turn demanded concessions from Iraq’s government, after six days in which his Mahdi Army militia has held off an American-supported Iraqi assault on the southern port city...

...The negotiations with Mr. Sadr were seen as a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who had vowed that he would see the Basra campaign through to a military victory and who has been harshly criticized even within his own coalition for the stalled assault.

Last week, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Kadir al-Obeidi, conceded that the government’s military efforts in Basra have met with far more resistance than was expected. Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the Basra campaign and that he is in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival, for a way out.

It sounds like poor al-Maliki really is now the George W. Bush of Iraq.

And it was a chance for Mr. Sadr to flaunt his power, commanding both armed force and political strength that can forcefully challenge the other dominant Shiite parties, including Mr. Maliki’s Dawa movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. In the statement, Mr. Sadr told militia members “to end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces” and “to cooperate with the government to achieve security.”

But Mr. Sadr also demanded concessions, including that the government grant a general amnesty for his followers, release all imprisoned members of the Sadrist movement who have not been convicted of crimes and bring back “the displaced people who have fled their homes as a result of military operations.”

It was not clear if the government was willing to meet those demands.

Some early reports yesterday indicated that there is still some sporadic fighting in Basra, though that may be a few dead-enders not having gotten the memo of the ceasefire agreement. They don't exactly have Blackberrys down there in beautiful, liberated Iraq.

And this aspect of the story is the real salt in the wound for President Bush-
Iranian officials helped broker a cease-fire agreement Sunday between Iraq's government and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, according to Iraqi lawmakers...

...Iran has close ties with both al-Sadr's movement and al-Maliki, who spent several years in exile there. Al-Nujaifi said the agreement was brokered by the commander of Iran's al-Quds Brigade, which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington.

Awesome. So we did we win (again) yet?


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