Posted by: Shaun | April 7, 2008

No let up in fighting in Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s offensive against Shia strongman Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army shows no signs of letting up and is increasingly drawing in American forces, according to the Washington Post. U.S. armored forces, spearheaded by Stryker APCs and backed up by attack helicopters have been dueling with militias in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City.  Americans are also increasingly involved in supporting the Iraqi army as it fights in Basra, coming to the rescue when the Iraqi’s are in danger of being overrun. Word has also come out that more than 1000 Iraqi soldiers and police either sat out the fight or deserted, prompting a worried Maliki to rush in reinforcements  This as the Iraqi security forces are supposed to be demonstrating their self-sufficiency. .

Meanwhile, questions are being raised about why Maliki undertook this offensive in the first place.  This might sound like a rather odd line of questioning, but it is surprisingly apropos since the Prime Minister didn’t bother to consult with the U.S. at all before launching the attack, so we don’t really know the answer.  A growing number of observers have concluded that Maliki has “fired the first shot in the Iraqi elections” and is seeking to liquidate a major rival in Iraq’s Shi’te community, namely Sadr.  This view has been lent some credence by the PM’s threat to freeze Sadr out of the elections if he does not disarm.

In summation, the situation appears to be that the elected head of government in Iraq has used state security forces to further his personal political goals by eliminating a major rival; either through combat, or by forcing him to give up his militia (and thus the source of his power).  So much for political reconciliation.  Not that Sadr is the kind of leader you’d want in charge of Iraq, but it would have been nice if Maliki had tried approaching the problem with a little more tact, a lot more cooperation, and significantly fewer 5.45x39mm rounds.

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