Sunday, April 8, 2007
Time For The Divorce?
Less than a week ago, in a post titled The Honeymoon's Over, I noted that, given the defections of both leadership and foot soldiers plaguing the Mahdi Militia, Moqtada al-Sadr could not afford to stand down his forces for much longer. My prediction was for a limited confrontation with either American forces or those of a competing militia to re-establish control over his organization.
That limited conflict, it turns out, was already taking place in Diwaniyah, a city in southern Iraq where the Mahdi Militia was engaged in skirmishes with the local police force. The local police force, that is, that doubles as the Badr Brigade, ie. the armed wing of SCIRI, an Iranian-aligned Iraqi political party whose prominent members include one of Iraq's Vice-Presidents and the current Finance Minister.
This past Friday, when it looked like al-Sadr's guys were getting the upper hand, US and Iraqi forces mounted a campaign to retake the city, engaging in pitched battles and even calling in airstrikes.
Today, the AP is reporting that al-Sadr has issued a proclamation calling on his forces to refrain from targeting Iraqi army units and to concentrate their attacks on American forces. My reading of the situation leads me to believe that the article's headline, "Al-Sadr Calls for Anti-U.S. Attacks", is a bit misleading. The call seems to be more for Iraqi unity than for attacks against American forces.
But that could change. And if it does, it will amount to the first real test of the new American approach to the War. So this one is worth keeping an eye on.