Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Inside Sadr City

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"BAGHDAD - This is the 24-square-kilometer theater where a great part of Iraq's future is already being played out; a vital element in US President George W Bush's surge; the place Pentagon generals dream of smashing into submission; one of the largest and arguably most notorious slums in the world: Sadr (formerly Saddam) City.

Sadr City is also, along with Gaza and the West Bank, the theater of the already evolving 21st-century war, pitting the high-tech Western haves against the slum-dwelling Third World have-nots. If the Bush administration had any intention of conquering any hearts and minds in Iraq, this is where it would be trying the hardest. Reality spells otherwise......

The Pentagon is now spinning murky stories of "secret cells" in Sadr City loaded with EFPs (explosively formed penetrators), bombs made in Iran used in most attacks by the Mehdi Army against the US in Sadr City. Residents angrily deny it: they say the Americans are attacking the neighborhood, not the other way around, and they have nothing to do "with the Iranians". The Mehdi Army may have access to these bombs on the black market, but this does not mean they are being armed by Tehran.

The key problem is Shi'ite-Shi'ite violence. The Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and effectively trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, is now clashing with the Mehdi Army in Sadr City itself. This boils down to a rivalry between eminent families fighting for political hegemony - al-Sadr and al-Hakim (Abdul Aziz al-Hakim heads the SCIRI). The fighting could expand - with horrific consequences. Muqtada has already issued orders for the Mehdi Army to cool down.

As for Amrika, there's no way the US will conquer any hearts and minds among more than half the population of Baghdad. And should the Pentagon go for the much-feared "battle of Sadr City", there will be only one way to yell "mission accomplished": by perpetrating a mass genocide. "

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