Monday, April 14, 2008

The War on Sadr takes shape

From Missing Link

"Some may think Robert Gates' remarks on Friday about who is and is not an "enemy of the United States" (see prior post) was one of those cosmetic in-one-ear-and-out-the-other things, but that is not how Moqtada alSadr took it, as you can see from this excerpt from his reply, in a statement his office released on Saturday:

There will not come a day when you (plural) are not my enemy, to the last drop of blood in my body, and anyone who takes you as a friend, or as a sponsor, or as a reconciliator or as a negotiating partner, him I will cut off until the day of judgment.

Needless to say, the references to those who take Gates "as a sponsor, or as a reconciliator" and so on, refer to the Maliki administration and anyone else who deals with the Americans. So Moqtada not only took the threat for what it was, but attributed it to the whole America-GreenZone group. And so it was that on Sunday, Maliki's spokesman Ali Dabbagh responded in turn, and in contrast to Moqtada's religious tone, Dabbagh used some oddly familiar-sounding secular rhetoric. He said to reporters:

The security forces will continue, without any leniency, in battle with the militias in Sadr City, until such time as it is completely purged of gunmen...we will not leave the place until we can guarantee the security of Sadr City...I cannot tell you how many days or how many months that will take, but what I can tell you is that our forces will not leave until the job is done.

Very Bush-like, as you can see, and the battle is joined.

What is important to realize is that (1) the Maliki administration, instead of leaving the Basra campaign as something to be eventually forgotten about, has instead explicitly locked itself into a military confrontation with the Sadrists, and (2) the decision to take this course was made in Washington, and the real declaration of war was the Gates comment. Since this is something that risks reigniting fitna in the country, it is important to realize where the decision was made to ignite this. ........."

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